UCLA taking hands-off approach to pro-Palestinian encampment

A pro-Palestinian protest involving dozens, if not hundreds, of students and non-student participants continued to grow on the campus of UCLA on Friday, with university officials keeping security guards at a distance.

The encampment first emerged Thursday morning, the day after a similar protest at crosstown University of Southern California was raided by campus security with assistance from Los Angeles police officers, resulting in dozens of arrests.

Protesters are demanding a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas and for universities to divest all interests in Israel over what they call a “genocide” in Gaza.

Photos: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators, counterprotesters at UCLA

“UCLA’s approach to the encampment is guided by several equally important principles: the need to support the safety and well-being of Bruins, the need to support the free expression rights of our community, and the need to minimize disruption to our teaching and learning mission,” the university said in a statement Friday.

Officials said they are following University of California systemwide guidance and would request law enforcement “only if absolutely necessary to protect the physical safety” of the campus community, and not preemptively.

Protests over the Israel-Hamas conflict have erupted on an increasing number of U.S. college campuses following last week’s arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University.

  • UCLA Campus Protest
    Pro-Palestinian demonstrators surround an unwelcomed man inside their encampment on the campus of UCLA on April 26, 2024. (KTLA)
  • UCLA Campus Protest
    Pro-Palestinian demonstrators surround an unwelcomed man inside their encampment on the campus of UCLA on April 26, 2024. (KTLA)
  • UCLA Campus Protest
    The pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus of UCLA in Westwood, Calif. April 26, 2024.
  • UCLA Campus Protest
    Pro-Israel counterprotesters are seen on the campus of UCLA on April 26, 2024. (KTLA)

In Southern California, USC’s decision to cancel a speech by valedictorian Asna Tabassum, a Muslim student who supported anti-Israel views on social media, was the flashpoint.

Due to the backlash, USC announced Thursday that it was canceling its main commencement ceremony.

In Westwood, demonstrators set up tents and surrounded themselves with makeshift fencing outside UCLA’s historic Royce Hall and controlled who was allowed inside, according to KTLA 5 News reporter Chip Yost

As of Friday afternoon, only isolated conflicts between pro-Palestinian activists and pro-Israel counterprotesters had been reported.

A tense moment occurred when a man wearing pink clothing and pink-dyed hair entered the encampment without permission from organizers. The individual, whose motive was unclear, was surrounded as the group tried to force him to leave the area. He was eventually allowed to stay.

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Demonstrators say they will remain on the campus until their demands are met.

The war started on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants crossed the Gaza border into southern Israel, killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 hostages.

Israel says the militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others. The conflict has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, around two-thirds of them children and women.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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