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‘Violation of our values,’ UCLA chancellor says of LAPD’s use of Jackie Robinson Stadium

People wait to be processed by law enforcement officers on a Wilshire Boulevard sidewalk Monday in Westwood.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Facing mounting criticism over the LAPD’s use of Jackie Robinson Stadium to process arrested protesters during the uprising sparked by the death of George Floyd, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said that such use was “a violation of our values” and that UCLA “must and will do better.”

“To see a space that’s so special to UCLA, particularly one dedicated to an iconic figure like Robinson, used as a place for punishing those who carry on his legacy is profoundly upsetting,” Block said in an emailed message to the UCLA community late Wednesday night. “The truth is that for many in our community, deeply anxious about police brutality and abuse of government power, that was deeply troubling. We understand and respect that. We failed to recognize these challenges in an inclusive manner that heard marginalized voices.”

Block said that the LAPD had sought and received permission from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, from which the university leases the stadium, to use its parking lot as a “staging area.” UCLA “knew about and failed to stop” that arrangement but did not know the site would be used to process arrests, he said.

“But allowing the LAPD to use the space even for staging during these recent protests was a mistake,” Block said.

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The issue arose after the Los Angeles Police Department crowded protesters and others arrested Monday in downtown Los Angeles and Westwood into Sheriff’s Department buses and brought them to the stadium. Protesters said they were detained for several hours and left handcuffed and without access to food, water or medical attention, while social distancing and other COVID-19 safety protocols were ignored.

Dozens of UCLA faculty members signed a letter Tuesday expressing concern and demanding an explanation. They did not accept Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck’s response that the LAPD’s use of the stadium as a field jail “was not done with the administration’s permission, collaboration or knowledge.”

“We are incredulous that you and other UCLA leadership were unaware of the situation,” they wrote. “How can we be assured that this will not repeat itself, putting many people in harm’s way, only to be later told that it happened without UCLA’s knowledge and permission? Responsibility lies with UCLA whether permission was granted or not.”

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The LAPD said in a statement late Wednesday that it created a command post in the stadium parking lot Sunday in preparation for planned demonstrations in Westwood the following day. It said the facility had been used “for previous city emergencies and was obtained with the approval of the staff” of UCLA.

The department said that by Monday evening a surge in curfew violation arrests required additional space for processing, and it “identified the stadium as a location for a field jail, to process arrestees for immediate release.”

“We regret that we did not inform UCLA of this intended purpose,” the statement said.

The statement added: “In retrospect it was an unfortunate decision to establish this site [for] processing arrestees … given the stadium’s namesake of Jackie Robinson, who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier as the first African American baseball player. The location was a poor choice given his legacy and the spirit of the protests.”

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UCLA faculty, led by professor Ananya Roy, said the university’s “active collaboration” with police stands in “sharp hypocrisy” to its statements of solidarity with protesters. The faculty have called on the university to make public all information regarding the use of the stadium by city agencies, including as a police command post, and to sever ties with the LAPD.


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