SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 30, 2024

Attack Types: Violence

Institution(s):University of California, Los Angeles

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On the night of April 30, 2024, a group of pro-Israel counterprotesters attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment that had been established on the campus at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The violence continued for around three hours before police intervened. Dozens of people were injured.

On April 25, the University of California Divest Coalition and the UCLA branch of Students for Justice in Palestine established an encampment of around 30 tents. The groups demanded that the university divest from companies with ties to the Israeli military. During the days that followed, the campus also saw substantial pro-Israel protests, leading to some clashes between the two groups of protesters.

Around 10:50 pm on April 30, violence broke out as pro-Israel counterprotesters removed some of the metal barricades surrounding the encampment. Video footage posted to social media and an analysis by the New York Times show violence escalating over the next several hours. According to the Times, all footage showed the counterprotesters attacking encampment protesters; no videos showed clear evidence of encampment protesters initiating any of the confrontations. Counterprotesters shot fireworks into the encampment at least six times, sprayed chemicals into the air and into people’s faces, punched, kicked, and attacked people with sticks, traffic cones, and wooden boards. In some cases, encampment protesters fought back, using chemical spray.

A small number of university security officers without the authority to make arrests stood nearby without intervening as the violence continued. According to the New York Times, students and bystanders present called 911 and non-emergency police lines and were repeatedly disconnected or dismissed. Police began to arrive on campus around 1:45, but violence continued. Around 2:40 pm, dozens of officers from the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department, and other agencies began to move toward the encampment. At that point, counterprotesters dispersed, and the violence subsided.

Police made no arrests during their intervention, but are continuing to investigate using technology, including facial recognition software, to identify those who attacked the encampment.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a violent attack on student protesters by a group of counterprotesters and by a delayed security response. Students and members of the public must refrain from violence, especially on campus, and respect the right to freedom of association and freedom of expression, and university authorities must take reasonable measures to ensure safe conditions for living, learning, and expression for students. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, violent attacks on students undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

Sources:
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/30/nyregion/ucla-encampment-protests.html
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/05/03/us/ucla-protests-encampment-violence.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/12/us/ucla-counterprotesters-police-response.html
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-04-30/ucla-moves-to-shut-down-pro-palestinian-encampment-as-unlawful
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2024-05-07/ucla-police-use-high-tech-tactics-to-find-masked-mob-who-attacked-encampment
https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2024/05/11/ucla-protests-police-inaction-fights/
https://www.chronicle.com/article/horrific-acts-of-violence-demonstrators-spar-at-ucla-before-police-move-in
https://dailybruin.com/2024/05/01/ucla-cancels-classes-following-violence-at-palestine-solidarity-encampment