On June 1, 2020, police used the University of California, Los Angeles’s (UCLA) campus stadium as a detention facility to process individuals arrested during nationwide protests for the Black Lives Matter movement and over police brutality.
On May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, police killed George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by kneeling on his neck for almost nine minutes. In a video recording of the killing, which was quickly widely circulated over social media and news channels, Floyd can be heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breath.” The killing sparked protests that quickly spread across the US and around the world over police brutality against Black people and systemic racism. While most protests have been nonviolent, a few initial protests were marked by looting and vandalism, often by individuals not associated with the protests. Police have used violent force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, and detentions of protesters, including during non-violent demonstrations. Several cities also ordered temporary curfews, threatening arrests of individuals violating curfew.
UCLA leases Jackie Robinson Stadium from the US Department of State Veteran Affairs (VA). The agreement between UCLA and the VA states that UCLA possesses the legal authority to deny any party from using the Jackie Robinson Stadium, including the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The VA can only allow city agencies to use the property that UCLA has leased with the expressed permission of UCLA.
On June 1, LAPD officers used the Jackie Robinson Stadium parking lot as a detention facility for processing arrested protestors. Police reportedly arrested hundreds of individuals participating in protests in Los Angeles and Westwood and transported them on sheriff’s buses to the stadium. Arrested individuals consisted of Black Lives Matter protesters, UCLA students, homeless individuals, and residents living in Los Angeles and Westwood who were unaffiliated with the protests. The operation reportedly lasted for 10-12 hours. Detained protesters stated that many were released late at night, lacking food, water, or functioning cell phones, without access to public transportation or ride-share services. As of this report, no media outlets have made any mention of arrested individuals being formally charged for their participation in the protest.
On June 3 the UCLA administration stated that the LAPD had received permission from the VA and UCLA to utilize the parking lot as a staging area in preparation of the June 1 protests. The university administration had not been informed that the area would be used to process arrests. The LAPD corroborated this claim by asserting that it had failed to notify the UCLA administration.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of a higher education institution as a facility to detain significant numbers of individuals engaged in the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association. Higher education institution leaders should practice due diligence when allowing outside parties to utilize their facilities and ensure that these facilities are being used in a manner consistent with principles of academic freedom and human rights. State authorities should refrain from occupying, utilizing, or militarizing university facilities. Such actions undermine university autonomy and academic freedom, preventing higher education institutions from serving their educational, social and public functions, in addition to compromising their missions and values.