Police Arrest 200, Dismantle UCLA Protest Camp After Clashes

(Bloomberg) -- Police in riot gear dismantled the barricades and tents erected by pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of California at Los Angeles after violence erupted the previous night with counter-protesters.

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Early Thursday, police lined up in rows and began closing in on the protesters, hours after ordering them to leave their encampment in front of the school’s Royce Hall theater. More than 200 people were arrested, the Los Angeles Times reported.

UCLA emerged as a West Coast flashpoint as colleges from New York to Texas turned to police this week to shut down escalating campus protests. Demonstrators have been demanding that universities sever financial ties to Israel and grant amnesty to students for rule-breaking, among other goals. The showdowns have grabbed headlines worldwide and sparked both recriminations and support from politicians, faculty and billionaire donors.

Richard Leib, the chair of the University of California Board of Regents, warned late Wednesday that an “unsafe environment” on the UCLA campus had to be resolved.

“Protests that interfere with university operations or threaten the safety of students require immediate enforcement of university policies so that violent situations are prevented,” he said in a statement. “It is our priority to ensure the safety of all students and allow equal access to education.”

Read: Biden Warns Against Violence in Student Protests Over Gaza

Elsewhere in the state at UC Berkeley, the first violent incident at an encampment of more than 100 tents occurred Wednesday evening, as pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with counter-demonstrators.

Dan Mogulof, a university spokesperson, said there was a “brief skirmish” between the sides that left three people with minor injuries.

“We are urging everyone to avoid engaging in pointless provocation and physical conflict,” he said in a statement.

In contrast to many other campuses, UC Berkeley hasn’t called in law enforcement to shut down its encampment. Protest organizers met with Chancellor Carol Christ to discuss their demands and a potential end to the encampment, the school newspaper reported Wednesday, citing students present. Mogulof declined to comment on the meeting.

The UCLA crackdown lifted the arrest tally to more than 2,000 at college campuses nationwide since New York City’s Columbia University first cleared an encampment in mid-April, according to the Associated Press.

In Los Angeles, police shut down the UCLA encampment about a day after pro-Palestinian protesters were attacked by counter demonstrators, starting a melee. University of California officials said 15 people were injured in that scuffle, including one who was hospitalized.

“There must be a full investigation into what occurred on campus,” Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a statement. “Those involved in launching fireworks at other people, spraying chemicals and physically assaulting others will be found, arrested, and prosecuted, as well as anyone involved in any form of violence or lawlessness.”

Read: US College Campuses On Edge as Police Move In: Protest Tracker

Classes were canceled Wednesday, with remote learning Thursday and Friday. Even as a sense of normalcy returned to the campus, UCLA students faced a new wave of disruptions from last-minute exam cancellations and rescheduling.

“I had a final today that was actually canceled,” said Shawn Im, a 20-year-old junior studying math and computer science. “Now, it’s the same day as my other final next week.”

With commencement quickly approaching at many schools, the pressure is on administrators to keep order.

At Columbia, more than 100 people were arrested April 18 but protesters reestablished an encampment, spurring a new confrontation with the school’s leadership. This week, after the demonstrators barricaded themselves in a university building, police officers entered the campus again, breaking up the escalating protest and arresting 119.

Columbia President Minouche Shafik said she asked police to maintain a campus presence through at least May 17, two days after graduation.

At the University of Texas at Dallas, more than a dozen protesters were arrested Wednesday afternoon after law enforcement broke up an encampment that pro-Palestinian students set up in the morning hours, where hundreds of people had gathered, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Police also made arrests earlier in the week at the Texas school’s flagship campus in Austin.

--With assistance from Bill Faries, Janine Phakdeetham, Eliyahu Kamisher and Kevin Whitelaw.

(Updates with arrest total in second paragraph)

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