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UCLA: Riot police make arrests and begin clearing pro-Palestine encampment

Police ordered the peaceful protesters to leave or face arrest, less than 24 hours after their encampment was attacked by a violent pro-Israel mob

Hundreds of riot police descended on a pro-Palestine encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) early on Thursday, as screams could be heard from behind the student-erected barricades as police officers used flash bangs and rubber bullets to clear the protest site.

Dozens of student protesters could be seen kneeling on the ground with their arms zip-tied behind their backs as officers detained them and continued bringing more demonstrators outside of the encampment.

Some protesters, donning hard hats, goggles and respirator masks in anticipation of the raid, could be seen attempting to flee as police converged on the site.

The protesters had previously put up a makeshift wall around the the encampment in a last-ditch effort to curb the incursion, but the police appeared to easily break through the barrier.

The Daily Bruin reported that officers in tactical gear had pushed some of the protesters towards Dickson Plaza, as the sound of flash bangs rang out near the school's iconic Janns Steps.

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CNN reported that their journalists had seen police officers fire what appeared to be rubber bullets. 

Pro-Palestine protesters can be seen donning hard hats, goggles and respirator masks at the encampment at UCLA after riot police stormed the area on 2 May, 2024 (AFP)
Pro-Palestine protesters can be seen donning hard hats, goggles and respirator masks at the encampment at UCLA after riot police stormed the area on 2 May 2024 (AFP)

Hundreds of other pro-Palestinian activists who were assembled outside the tent city jeered police with shouts of "all cops are bastards," some banging on drums and waving Palestinian flags, as officers marched onto the campus grounds.

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At 03:00 local time (11:00 GMT), UCLA issued a safety alert asking students to avoid Dickson Plaza, the area where the pro-Palestinian protester encampment is set up, and said those who do not disperse "will be in violation of the law" and could face sanctions if they don't leave.

"Police have ordered an evacuation of Dickson Plaza due to an unlawful assembly," the alert said.

"The University of California Los Angeles has declared the encampment and all unauthorized tents and structures in Dickson Plaza to be unlawful. The University requires that everyone must leave the encampment and adjacent areas, as well as all unauthorized structures and tents immediately, until further notice."

The heavy police presence was in stark contrast to the events of Tuesday, when some of the worst violence seen since students across the US intensified their protests in support of Gaza unfolded. 

More than a dozen people were injured when a large group of Israel supporters attacked the encampment with sticks, poles, bear spray and fireworks. 

Video footage of the violence included some middle-aged Israel supporters hurling racial slurs as they threw punches at pro-Palestinian protesters.

UCLA chancellor Gene Block said in a statement that "a group of instigators" carried out Tuesday night's attack, but did not provide details about the crowd or why the administration and school police did not act sooner.

Muslim organisations blasted the university and police for failing to intervene and protect them from pro-Israeli attackers.

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

For over two weeks, UCLA, along with other universities across the US, have been the scene of protests against Israel's war on Gaza, which has killed at least 34,500 Palestinians, most of them children and women.

Students opposed to the war are demanding that their respective schools to divest investments from Israel or from companies that are profiting off of Israel's war in Gaza and Israel's wider abuses against Palestinians.

Israel is currently facing genocide charges at the International Court of Justice for its conduct in Gaza, which includes mass bombardment of civilian areas, summary executions and the withdrawal of food and other aid into the territory.

Earlier on Tuesday evening, New York City police arrested dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators holed-up in an academic building at Columbia University and removed a protest encampment the Ivy League school had sought to dismantle for nearly two weeks.

A pro-Palestine protester waves a Palestinian flag at the student encampment at UCLA on 2 May, 2024 (AFP)
A protester waves a Palestinian flag at the student encampment at UCLA on 2 May 2024 (AFP)

Columbia University's president, Minouche Shafik, had requested police help to remove the protesters who had occupied the institution's Hamilton Hall, renaming it after Hind Rajab, a six-year-old girl killed by Israel in January.

"With the utmost regret, we request the NYPD’s help to clear all individuals from Hamilton Hall and all campus encampments," Shafik wrote in a letter to the New York Police Department.

According to the letter, Shafik requested that police officers remain on site until 17 May to prevent a resumption of protests.

The university's decision triggered widespread condemnation with New York City Congressman Jamaal Bowman, a Democrat, condemning the police's actions.

"These are students. In no world should our kids be met with guns when using their constitutional right to peacefully assemble," he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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