UCLA clashes: California governor Gavin Newsom hits out at 'delayed' police response to violence

UCLA clashes: California governor Gavin Newsom hits out at 'delayed' police response to violence

California governor Gavin Newsom has criticised the “delayed” police response to violence that erupted on the University of California campus in Los Angeles.

Law enforcement officers wearing riot gear ordered the dispersal of more than 1,000 people who had gathered in support of a pro-Palestinian student encampment on Wednesday evening.

Hundreds of tents were erected on the UCLA campus quad while protesters wore wore helmets and headscarves. The law enforcement presence and continued warnings that students could face arrests stood in contrast to the night before, when counter-demonstrators attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment.

Supporters of the pro-Palestinian protesters sit on stairs at UCLA (AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of the pro-Palestinian protesters sit on stairs at UCLA (AFP via Getty Images)

Fighting continued for several hours before police stepped in, though no arrests were made. At least 15 protesters suffered injuries.

The slow response by authorities drew criticism from political leaders as well as Muslim students and advocacy groups.

Governor Gavin Newsom's spokesperson said the "limited and delayed" police intervention was "unacceptable".

In a statement posted to X, Mr Newsom condemned the violence.

“The right to free speech does not extend to inciting violence, vandalism, or lawlessness on campus,” he said, warning that people could face prosecution, suspension or explusion.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block has promised a review of the night's events after Mr Newsom and the Los Angeles mayor denounced the delays.

"However one feels about the encampment, this attack on our students, faculty and community members was utterly unacceptable," Mr Block said. "It has shaken our campus to its core."

Rebecca Husaini, chief of staff for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said: "The community needs to feel the police are protecting them, not enabling others to harm them.”


Speakers disputed the university's account that 15 people were injured and one hospitalised, saying the number of people taken to the hospital was higher.

One student described needing to go to the hospital after being hit in the head by an object wielded by counter-protesters.

Several students who spoke during a news conference on Wednesday said they had to rely on each other, not the police, for support as they were attacked, and that many in the pro-Palestinian encampment remained peaceful and did not engage with counter-protesters.

UCLA canceled classes Wednesday.

The chaotic scenes at UCLA came just hours after New York police burst into a building occupied by anti-war protesters at Columbia University on Tuesday night, breaking up a demonstration.

The nationwide campus demonstrations began at Columbia on April 17 to protest Israel's offensive in Gaza, which followed Hamas launching a deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to stamp out Hamas, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the Health Ministry there.

Israel and its supporters have branded the university protests antisemitic, while Israel's critics say it uses those allegations to silence opposition.

Organisers of the protests, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and protesting the war.Meanwhile, protest encampments have sprung up in the UK.

Among universities where protest encampments were due to take place on Wednesday included Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield.