Second Pro-Palestinian Encampment at UCLA Dispersed

UCLA Chancellor grilled by House committee as new encampment was erected on campus.
May 24, 2024
LAPD officers keep watch after they cleared a new encampment of pro-Palestinian protestors on the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) campus on May 23, 2024. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

While Chancellor Gene Block testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee in Washington, D.C., a second pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA was dispersed by police on May 23 shortly after it was rebuilt.

ABC7 reported that “protesters used tables, metal fences, plywood and other materials to block off a section of campus between Kerckhoff and Moore Halls” and that UC Police, the LAPD and the Santa Monica Police Department returned to campus, where the confronted the protesters as they gave orders to disperse.

The protesters have since moved to Dodd Hall where, according to The Daily Bruin,  200 protesters chanted outside while others occupied the Hall before voluntarily dispersing at 5:20 p.m.

Alexi Aloni, a recent UCLA alumnus and a board member of the university’s Hillel, told The Journal in a phone interview that Jewish students on campus are “freaking out. They’re tired. It’s Week eight. The TAs are going on strike, people have professors who are just completely turning off their courses until the end of the year … I’m honestly sick to my stomach. I haven’t woken up anxious in a long time, and I woke up anxious today. You kind of just want to avoid campus when something like this is going on.” She added that “everyone’s upset. We’re sick of it.”

Aloni is also irked how the timing of the pro-Palestinian encampment happened a day after Hamas released a hostage video. “They’re probably not even aware of what came out yesterday … and if they are aware of it that’s even worse … they’re not necessarily paying attention through reasonings of victimization and the oppressor vs the oppressed and that can’t keep happening.”

Block opened his appearance before the House Education and Workforce Committee by saying he was “saddened by the recent turmoil on campus” but expressed pride in his university’s record of peaceful free speech and debate. He also contended that it’s been particularly hard to balance the public university’s obligation to protect free speech while also preventing students from being targeted and harassed since Oct. 7. “I’m fully aware that many of our Jewish students have had to confront rhetoric and images on campuses that any reasonable person would find repugnant,” Block said. “Trust me, I understand their pain. I’ve lived it myself.” He explained that he grew up with Holocaust survivor relatives and recalled watching neo-Nazis rioting “outside the synagogue in Charlottesville where my children were called to the Torah” as well as seeing an art show in which he was depicted “with exaggerated facial features that were reminiscent of caricatures of Jews during the Nazi era.”

Block acknowledged that in hindsight, “we should have been prepared to immediately remove the encampment if and when the safety of our community was put at risk. We’ve since taken decisive action. I’ve created a new office of campus safety that reports directly to me.” He also vowed to “hold accountable all those who engaged in violence or violated our policies. No student should be threatened or excluded based on their beliefs or identity.”

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Cypress) asked Block if he has taken any action against a professor who offered extra credit for students to attend pro-Palestinian protests on campus; Block said he wasn’t familiar with the incident. Steel also asked Block about why first-year medical students were required to attend a lecture at UCLA’s Medical School where students were led in a “Free, Free Palestine” chant and instructed to bow to “Mama Earth”; Block replied that the university is working “to confirm the facts” and that the Medical School is reviewing its first-year material. Steel remarked that she didn’t think she’s “getting any answers from you.”

Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) asked if the individuals who blocked Jewish student Eli Tsives from entering a main pathway campus were students, Block said he didn’t know and that it’s being investigated.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) lambasted Block over the university’s handling of the night of violence on April 30-May 1 for standing by “for hours” and allowing the violence against the encampment to occur and asked why the university didn’t intervene sooner, or why the university didn’t intervene when someone released rats into the encampment or when an anonymous group displayed “vile and disturbing footage,” an apparent reference to the display of Oct. 7 footage. Block replied that he rejected “the premise,” prompting Omar to exclaim “are these pictures lying? Are any of these people in jail?” in reference to the counterprotesters on April 30-May 1. Block responded police are investigating, at which point Omar pointed out that “it’s been over a month.” She then asked why police weren’t immediately sent to intervene; Block claimed that “we tried to get police there as quickly as possible” and said that the encampment violated university policy. Omar again asked why the “violent agitators” haven’t been held accountable for attacking 150 of UCLA students.

“You should be ashamed for letting a peaceful protest gathering get hijacked by an angry mob,” she added. “You should be ashamed for allowing such violence to take place on your campus, which will now be weaponized by Republicans in this committee.”

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