Man arrested in attack on UCLA pro-Palestinian protesters

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - May 1: Pro-Palestinian protestors defend themselves against a pro-Israeli supporter at an encampment at UCLA early Wednesday morning. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Pro-Palestinian protesters defend themselves against a pro-Israeli supporter at an encampment at UCLA on May 1. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles)

A pro-Israeli counterprotester was arrested Thursday morning by UCLA police, weeks after he allegedly assaulted occupants of a campus protest encampment with a wooden pole.

According to the UCLA Police Department, detectives interviewed witnesses and victims and reviewed security camera footage from the pro-Palestinian demonstration to identify the suspect, who was not affiliated with the campus and was allegedly among a group who violently attacked students, faculty and staff April 30.

Read more: Police descend on UCLA after protesters erect new pro-Palestinian encampment

The 18-year-old man was detained at a business in Beverly Hills and booked on suspicion of felony assault with a deadly weapon, police said. He is being held in Los Angeles County jail on $30,000 bail. This appears to be the first arrest of a counterprotester.

A law enforcement source confirmed to The Times that the man is Edan On, who was identified by CNN last week as a counterprotester wearing a white hoodie and a mask in widely shared images and videos that showed him repeatedly hitting a pro-Palestinian protester with the pole. On is also listed on the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department arrest log.

In a deleted Facebook post, On's mother, Sharon On-Siboni, shared a photo of her son from a Fox 11 news segment at UCLA that she captioned in Hebrew, "Edan went to bully the Palestinian students in the tents at UCLA and played the song that they played to the Nukhba terrorists in prison!” according to a law enforcement source.

When reached by phone on Friday morning, a relative who answered On-Siboni's phone declined to comment about the arrest, and On remained in jail as of Friday morning. He's scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

"The UCLA Police Department is committed to investigating all reported acts of violence and is actively working to identify the other perpetrators of violence associated with any protest or counter-protest activities between April 25, 2024, and May 2, 2024," the Police Department said in a statement. "The investigations are ongoing."

A group of student reporters were among those attacked by counterprotesters on April 30. The violence prompted an independent review of the university's actions and law enforcement's response to the campus unrest. Universities across the country have been disrupted by protests over the Israel-Hamas war.

Protesters who erected a Palestine solidarity encampment came under attack by hundreds of pro-Israel counterprotesters armed with fireworks, a gas irritant and blunt objects. For hours, the violence intensified as private security guards and campus police watched from a distance.

Mary Osako, vice chancellor for UCLA strategic communications, said in a statement, “Horrific acts of violence occurred at the encampment tonight and we immediately called law enforcement for mutual aid support. The fire department and medical personnel are on the scene. We are sickened by this senseless violence and it must end.”

Scores of protesters were injured by the time police in riot gear arrived on the campus.

In early May, more than 200 people were arrested at UCLA as police and protesters clashed for hours.

Read more: After violent night at UCLA, classes cancelled, UC president launches investigation into response

Campus Police Chief John Thomas was removed from his post and reassigned, officials said earlier this week, after he was criticized for security failures that led to violence at a pro-Palestinian encampment. Thomas later defended his actions in an interview and said he did the best he could. And UCLA Chancellor Gene Block was interrogated by members of Congress on Thursday over his handling of complaints regarding campus antisemitism.

In his opening remarks during the congressional hearing, Block said, "With the benefit of hindsight, we should have been prepared to immediately remove the encampment if and when the safety of our community was put at risk."

UCLA created a new campus safety office and an independent police consultant is reviewing the school's response to the events of April 30, Block said.

"Finally, we will hold accountable those who engaged in violence and violated our policies," he said.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said the images from UCLA were “appalling,” but even worse was “that it was completely preventable.” She told Block multiple times during the hearing that he should be “ashamed” for the injuries that took place under his watch.

“You, the UCLA leadership and law enforcement stood by for hours as the mob of agitators gathered near the encampment with a clear intention to cause violence,” she said. “I would like to know if you are truly committed to keeping your students safe. How did you fail these students at many critical points where you could’ve intervened?”

“Thank you for the question, but I’m sorry but I reject the premise,” Block replied, saying that UCLA is working with the LAPD to identify attackers. He said the university “tried to to get police there as quickly as possible.”

Times reporters Jaweed Kaleem, Andrea Castillo and Jenny Jarvie contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.