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13 June, 2024
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UCLA protests prompt large police deployment

Over 1,000 demonstrators are currently occupying the UCLA campus


The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), has become a focal point of tension as clashes erupted between pro-Palestinian activists and supporters of Israel, echoing similar unrest unfolding across American campuses.

In scenes reminiscent of past protests, chaos unfolded on campus as activists armed with makeshift weapons attempted to dismantle a pro-Palestinian solidarity encampment, prompting university authorities to call for police assistance to prevent further escalation.

Despite repeated calls to disperse, protesters remained steadfast, chanting slogans in support of Palestine as authorities struggled to restore order. According to the Associated Press, over 1,000 demonstrators are currently occupying the UCLA campus.

Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA, condemned the violence, attributing it to what he termed as "a group of agitators." However, specific details regarding the identity of these agitators or reasons for the initial inaction by the administration and law enforcement remain undisclosed.

Similar incidents unfolded across university campuses nationwide yesterday, with police interventions aimed at dismantling activist encampments and building occupations, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

One of the most dramatic clashes occurred at Columbia University in New York City, where students occupied Hamilton Hall in a bold move, breaking windows and erecting barricades to block police entry. Banners reading "Free Palestine" and "Student Intifada" adorned the building, which was renamed "Hindt Hall" in honor of a six-year-old Gaza girl killed in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Responding to calls from university and municipal authorities, hundreds of officers swiftly cleared Hamilton Hall and the outdoor encampment, arresting at least 230 individuals. Many of those detained were demanding divestment from companies supporting the Israeli military and greater financial transparency from university administrations.

In response to the escalation, Nemat Minouche Shafik, President of Columbia University, expressed regret over the situation, stating that students had "chosen to escalate the situation with occupations, vandalism, and blockades." She subsequently requested a significant police presence on campus until May 17th to ensure the security of upcoming graduation ceremonies.

Coincidentally, the clashes occurred exactly 56 years after similar police crackdowns at the same location, during the Vietnam War era. In April 30th, 1968, police stormed Columbia University to quell student occupations, resulting in numerous injuries on both sides. This year's activists drew inspiration from their predecessors, declaring their encampment the "Liberated Zone."

Late into the night, pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered at City College in Harlem, near Columbia, only to be dispersed by law enforcement. Similar interventions were reported at universities across the country, including Tulane in New Orleans, and campuses in Arizona, Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.

[With information sourced from Kathimerini Greece]


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