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Students condemn police sweep of Palestine solidarity encampment

Police officers outside the back of Royce Hall are pictured wearing riot gear. Law enforcement cleared the Palestine solidarity encampment at UCLA in the early hours of Thursday morning after a dispersal order was issued. (Brandon Morquecho/Photo editor)

By Alexandra Crosnoe

May 4, 2024 2:25 p.m.

This post was updated May 5 at 11:05 p.m.

Students denounced UCLA’s decision to have police sweep the Palestine solidarity encampment early Thursday morning, saying the degree of force was excessive on what they saw as peaceful protest.

Following an attack from counter-protesters on the encampment Tuesday night, UCPD ordered protesters within the Dickson Plaza Palestine solidarity encampment – which had been in place since April 25 – to disperse or face arrest late Wednesday afternoon. By around 1:20 a.m. Thursday, hundreds of police began to sweep the encampment, which the university had previously labeled “unlawful,” and ultimately arrested over 200 protesters within the camp.

Will Gracey, a fourth-year political science student, said he felt that the police intervention was unnecessary because protesters in the encampment were nonviolent. Police officers entered the encampment in riot gear, holding batons and guns with less-than-lethal rounds.

“It’s a ridiculous amount of force for something they know poses no threat,” he said. “The only violence has been when people have attacked them.”

Marc Froimovich, a third-year geography/environmental studies and psychology student, said police should have instead used force Tuesday night when counter-protesters attacked the encampment. At least 25 encampment members were hospitalized in the prolonged absence of both UCPD and university-hired CSC security officials, a spokesperson from the UC Divest Coalition at UCLA said in a press conference. At 12:12 a.m. Wednesday, Mary Osako – the vice chancellor for strategic communications – said law enforcement had been called for immediate support, but police did not intervene until over two hours later.

“We saw CHP – the California Highway Patrol – we saw the LA County Sheriff’s Office and LAPD all mobilized to repress student free speech and protest,” Froimovich said. “Yet, not one of those three was mobilized anywhere when it was needed to be in order to stop violence being committed against a nonviolent protest.”

Honey Brown, a first-year theater student, also said police should have done more to protect the encampment in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Brown added that although she did not object to police officers being on campus, she thought they should not have utilized force on those in the encampment.

Brown said she believed the protesters should not be charged because they were protesting peacefully. Froimovich also said criminal charges could have a long-term impact on students’ career prospects, despite them having protested peacefully. In addition to the legal ramifications protesters face, a Tuesday afternoon letter from UCLA also warned that students in the encampment could face suspension or expulsion if they refused to leave. As of Friday evening, the Daily Bruin was unable to confirm that UCLA has followed through with this warning.

Chancellor Gene Block issued a statement Thursday afternoon claiming that the encampment was disrupting campus activities. However, Ben Smith, a third-year biochemistry student, said he felt the only disruptions came from violence by counter-protesters.

Gracey added that he hopes Block will resign because of the university administration’s failure to protect student safety. Sandoval, a third-year materials engineering student who declined to provide their full name, said despite initially wanting to pursue their doctorate at UCLA, last week’s events had given them pause.

Sandoval said they also believed Thursday’s policing response would be ineffective and instead would motivate students to carry on protesting.

Brown also said Thursday’s events made her disappointed in the university, adding that she feels the university needs to listen to its students.

“UCLA’s administration needs to do so much better,” Brown said. “It’s about making sure that your students are safe and protected at the end of the day, regardless of what anyone believes.”

Contributing reports by Sam Mulick, Daily Bruin reporter.

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Alexandra Crosnoe
Crosnoe is the 2024-2025 national news and higher education editor. She was previously a News reporter. Crosnoe is a second-year economics and public affairs student from Dallas.
Crosnoe is the 2024-2025 national news and higher education editor. She was previously a News reporter. Crosnoe is a second-year economics and public affairs student from Dallas.
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