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What happened when pro-Israelis attacked UCLA Gaza protest?

Explosives, mace unleashed: Here's what happened amid 'pro-Israel attack' on UCLA Gaza protest
4 min read
01 May, 2024
UCLA's student newspaper and activists have alerted continued violent attacks launched by pro-Israel supporters on the Gaza protest encampment.
Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian students face off at an encampment on the campus of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on April 30, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. [Getty]

Pro-Israel supporters have launched a series of violent attacks on pro-Palestinian Gaza encampments within the campus of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), student activists and journalists have said.

The attacks erupted on Wednesday before dawn shortly after the expansion of UCLA’s pro-Palestine protest camp, established last Thursday, CNN reported. 

Rival pro-Israel group members had become increasingly violent and confrontational, according to UCLA student newspaper Daily Bruin, which reported some had hurled projectiles at the encampment and attempted to tear down makeshift barricades.  

This led to clashes between protesters and counter-protesters- which consisted of many pro-Israelis who were masked. 

Aerial footage from broadcaster KABC, an affiliate of ABC, showed people wielding sticks or poles attacking wooden boards that were used as a makeshift barricade to protect pro-Palestinian protesters.   

Other members of the pro-Israel group were also seen launching fireworks or hurling objects in the dark - lit up with laser pointers and bright flashlights - reportedly toward the peaceful encampment. 

According to LA Times reporter Teresa Watanabe, over 200 pro-Israel counter-protesters had been attacking the UCLA pro-Palestinian encampment, adding that they "started beating on one student and stomped another under a plywood board."

According to pro-Palestine student activists documenting the attacks on social media, as well as People's City Council Los Angeles, "chemical warfare" had also been unleashed by pro-Israel supporters- using mace and smoke bombs. 

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The Los Angeles Police Department said on social media platform X that "officers have been deployed, and are currently on the UCLA campus, to assist in restoring order". 

The force had earlier said it was responding "due to multiple acts of violence within the large encampment" after the university asked for police help. 

UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block warned ahead of violence that protesters including "both members of the UCLA community and others unaffiliated with our campus" had set up a camp last week. 

In a statement, the UCLA Palestinian Solidarity Encampment - said to be made up of students, faculty members and community members - reiterated its calls to the university for divestment from Israel and ending its silence. 

"For over seven hours, Zionist aggressors hurled gas canisters, sprayed pepper spray and threw fireworks and bricks into our encampment," the group said in a statement posted on X. 

"Campus safety left within minutes, external security the university hired for 'backup' watched, filmed and laughed on the side as the immediate danger inflicted upon us escalated. 

"Call on UCLA, protect your fellow students and call for what we need- a divestment from systems of death that profit off indiscriminate bombing and a call to end the genocide in Gaza and the occupation of Palestine."

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has been approached for comment. 

When requested for comment, UCLA representives referred The New Arab to Chancellor Gene Block's latest statement on Wednesday.

Block condemned the violence that ensued against the pro-Palestine solidarity encampment and emphasised that "instigators" aimed to "forcefully attack the encampment that has been established there to advocate for Palestinian rights."

"However one feels about the encampment, this attack on our students, faculty and community members was utterly unacceptable," Block said in a statement.

"It has shaken our campus to its core and — adding to other abhorrent incidents that we have witnessed and that have circulated on social media over the past several days — further damaged our community’s sense of security."

The UCLA chancellor added that following attacks, a thorough investigation is set to take place that will led to several "arrests, expulsions and dismissals".

The unrest at UCLA comes after police cleared Columbia University's campus in New York City on Tuesday and evicted a building occupied by pro-Palestinian student protesters. 

CNN cited the NYPD as saying more than 100 demonstrators had been arrested. 

Police climbed into Hamilton Hall via a second-floor window they reached from a laddered truck, before leading handcuffed students out of the building into police vans. 

The hall had been occupied on Tuesday by demonstrators who vowed they would fight any eviction, as they protested the soaring death toll from Israel's war in the Gaza Strip

A week-long occupation was also brought to an end at northern California's Cal Poly Humboldt while Portland State University's campus, in Oregon, was closed Tuesday "due to an ongoing incident" in the library. 

Local media reported around 50 protesters had broken into the building a day earlier. 

Brown University reached an agreement in which student protesters would remove their encampment in exchange for the institution holding a vote on divesting from Israel -- a major concession from an elite American university. 

UN human rights chief Volker Turk voiced concern at the heavy-handed steps taken to disperse the campus protests, saying: "Freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly are fundamental to society." 

Hamas staged an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that left around 1,170 people dead, according to Israeli figures. 

Israel's offensive has killed at least 34,568 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory's health ministry. 

Multiple press agencies also contributed to this report.