UCLA Students Accuse School of Sanctioning Counter-Protester Violence in a Way That’s ‘Very Similar’ to the KKK

The Palestine Solidarity Encampment held a press conference denouncing overnight violence from what the university determined was a non-student “group of instigators”

Aftermath of Tuesday night's violent outbreak at the pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA
Aftermath of the violent outbreak April 30 at the pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA (Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Pro-Palestine student protesters at UCLA held a press conference Wednesday afternoon condemning the violent clash with counter-protesters Tuesday night that led to the university canceling classes and maintaining police presence on campus.

Student spokespeople for the organization also compared their university’s apparent inaction toward the violence to the way “the Ku Klux Klan operated as a quasi-state” in acts of hate.

The Palestine Solidarity Encampment group held the press conference at UCLA’s Tongva Steps. Live-streaming via Instagram, they slammed pro-Israel demonstrators’ use of tear gas, fireworks and pipes while assaulting their Royce Court barricades on Tuesday. Denouncing the counter-protesters’ actions, the group maintained that they remained peaceful and on defense during the late night attack.

The California public university ultimately canceled classes on Wednesday and closed the vandalized Royce Hall and the nearby library until Friday and Monday, respectively. In its aftermath, the Palestine Solidarity Encampment called out school officials, law enforcement and the media for being a part of the problem.

“The university is willing to basically sanction violence against pro-Palestinian students and people who are standing against genocide in a manner that’s very similar to the way that the Ku Klux Klan operated as a quasi-state,” one student spokesperson said of university leadership, while reiterating that the counter-protesters did not appear to be students nor faculty. “They are going to punish us for being brutalized last night.”

According to the encampment group, 25 of their protesters were hospitalized late Tuesday, even though some were reportedly turned away from receiving medical aid. Additionally, they accused the Los Angeles Police Department, who ultimately broke up the violence early Wednesday, of not helping the situation and instead just lining up and pushing encampment demonstrators closer to the counter-protesters. Similarly, they said ambulances only helped a single counter-protester.

“The police actually mobilized pretty fast,” one spokesperson recalled, saying they did nothing. “We keep us safe, the police did not. They would rather watch us be killed than protect us.”

Pro-Israel counter-protesters attack pro-Palestine protesters' encampment at UCLA on April 30
Pro-Israel counter-protesters attack pro-Palestine protesters’ encampment at UCLA on April 30 (Credit: Shay Horse/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
A Pro-Palestinian protestor clashes with a pro-Israeli supporter at an encampment at UCLA on April 30
A Pro-Palestinian protestor clashes with a pro-Israeli supporter at an encampment at UCLA on April 30 (Credit: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)
Police stand guard after clashes erupted on UCLA campus April 30
Police stand guard after clashes erupted on UCLA campus April 30 (Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

Earlier Wednesday UCLA chancellor Gene Block shared a statement on Tuesday’s violent outbreak, confirming that “a group of instigators came to Royce Quad to forcefully attack the encampment that has been established there to advocate for Palestinian rights.” He assured that his calling on the LAPD to intervene was to “help end this appalling assault, quell the fighting and protect our community.” Read that in full below:

Late last night, a group of instigators came to Royce Quad to forcefully attack the encampment that has been established there to advocate for Palestinian rights. Physical violence ensued, and our campus requested support from external law enforcement agencies to help end this appalling assault, quell the fighting and protect our community.

However one feels about the encampment, this attack on our students, faculty and community members was utterly unacceptable. 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.

I want to express my sincere sympathy to those who were injured last night, and to all those who have been harmed or have feared for their safety in recent days. No one at this university should have to encounter such violence. Our student affairs team has been reaching out to affected individuals and groups to offer support and connections to health and mental health resources. 

I also want to acknowledge the trauma and heartache this has brought to our full campus. Resources are available to students through the Student Affairs website and Counseling & Psychological Services, and to employees through the Staff & Faculty Counseling Center.

We are still gathering information about the attack on the encampment last night, and I can assure you that we will conduct a thorough investigation that may lead to arrests, expulsions and dismissals. We are also carefully examining our own security processes in light of recent events. To help in these efforts, I urge those who have experienced violence to report what they encountered to UCPD, and those who have faced discrimination to contact the Civil Rights Office. We are grateful for the support of law enforcement and their efforts to investigate these incidents.

This is a dark chapter in our campus’s history. We will restore a safe learning environment at UCLA.

Later in Wednesday’s press conference, the Palestine Solidarity Encampment at UCLA emphasized that, despite fellow pro-Palestine student protesters across the country being arrested en masse, they are not afraid to continue standing up for the citizens of Gaza.

“We remain steadfast. All we think about is the Palestinian children holding up signs with names of universities thanking us,” a student spokesperson said. “We will relive last night every single night until this stops.”

Read the student organization’s full statement on Tuesday night below:

The life-threatening assault we face tonight is nothing less than a horrifying, despicable act of terror. For over seven hours, zionist aggressors hurled gas canisters, sprayed pepper spray, and threw fireworks and bricks into our encampment. They broke our barriers repeatedly, clearly in an attempt to kill our community. 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. Law enforcement simply stood at the edge of the lawn and refused to budge as we screamed for their help. The only means of protection we had was each other. WE KEEP EACH OTHER SAFE.

Despite the danger, we refused to engage standing by the principles of our encampment—self defense. For all the school’s pretense of student safety, we have experienced an unprecedented amount of violence and hatred while they stood by. The university’s hypocrisy all too apparent, as signs of this escalation were reported, documented, and indicated early on. The zionist attacks, their use of chemical weaponry, their hatred, their destruction, are but a microcosm of the genocide in Gaza. The university would rather see us dead than divest. Media portrayal of neutrality and both sides only obfuscates the truth. We have no pepper spray, no gas canisters, no fireworks, and no aggression. All we had was our community to hold our wooden barriers. What more can we do? We ask yet again- no, we demand that the university end this sham. The sham of pretending that the school is neutral- it has chosen genocide before and it chooses genocide again.


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