Skip to main content

UCLA: Riot police clear pro-Palestine encampment after firing rubber bullets at protesters

Scores of protesters arrested, including a professor, less than 24 hours after encampment was attacked by 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, and used flash bangs and rubber bullets to clear the protest site as screams rang out from behind the student-erected barricades.

Discarded tents and sleeping bags could be seen strewn across the main campus' Royce Quad at 08:00 local time (15:00 GMT), hours after police stormed the site and arrested hundreds of people.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) said hundreds of people had been arrested at the encampment - which had been protesters' home for more than a week - but did not say how many were students or faculty. According to the university's student-run newspaper, the Daily Bruin, at least one UCLA professor was among those that were detained.

A series of photos and videos posted online purported to show police firing on demonstrators after tearing down the flimsy barricades.

Separate footage posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, showed an armed officer telling people to "move back" for their "own safety" - while other officers fired on the protesters.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


Later, dozens of young protesters could be seen kneeling on the ground with their arms zip-tied behind their backs as officers led them to buses near the school's grounds.

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 remained assembled outside the tent city, jeered police with shouts of "all cops are bastards," some banging on drums and waving Palestinian flags.

America's new generation of student protesters is giving hope to Palestinians
Read More »

The arrests came shortly after UCLA issued a safety alert asking students to avoid Dickson Plaza, the area where the pro-Palestinian protester encampment was set up, and said those who did not disperse "will be in violation of the law" and could face sanctions if they don't leave.

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.

Speaking at a Manhattan criminal court where he is attending the 10th day of his hush money trial, former president Donald Trump praised police in New York and Los Angeles for clearing the peaceful encampments, and said the "radical left lunatics" protesting at university campuses needed to be stopped.

"This is a movement from the left. These are radical left lunatics, and they've got to be stopped now because it's going to go on and on. And it's going to get worse, and worse," Trump said.

"And, you know, they take over countries, and we're not letting them take over the USA. We're not letting the radical left morons take over this country." 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.