More than 100 arrested at UCLA, UC San Diego as campuses step up security

Police stand next to a person in a hoodie and handcuffs.
More protests emerged Monday at UCLA, with police arresting multiple people who gathered in a campus parking garage.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
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Heightened and quick-moving police actions against protesters unfolded Monday at UCLA and other campuses, as university officials said there would be little tolerance for demonstrators who disrupted campus and violated laws and student conduct codes in the wake of last week’s violence and tensions at pro-Palestinian encampments.

At UCLA on Monday, campus police arrested 44 pro-Palestinian protesters gathered in a parking structure — actions students called harassment and intimidation — as they assembled before a peaceful protest. Other protesters were ordered to disperse when they entered a campus building. Classes were moved online for the rest of the week as a security precaution.

The action came after UCLA officials vowed to improve security after a violent mob last week attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment that was later torn down by law enforcement. The UCLA police chief has come under intense criticism for the violence and failure to bring in police fast enough to quell the melee.

At UC San Diego, 64 people, including 40 students, were arrested. A growing pro-Palestinian encampment was declared illegal by the chancellor and was cleared out Monday morning. At Cal State Los Angeles, the university president alleged that antisemitic graffiti was found on campus buildings and increased security “to act swiftly and decisively” if unlawful activity occurs. But the campus refused to disclose what the graffiti said, saying it “has no interest in perpetuating the hateful message that was spray painted on King Hall” and the Cal State L.A. chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine said in an Instagram post that the allegation was false.

A person uses a bullhorn on UCLA campus among several other people, all in masks.
More protests emerged at UCLA on Monday, with police arresting multiple people who gathered in a campus parking garage.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

At USC — the site of a Sunday predawn police sweep and dismantling of a pro-Palestinian camp — security remained tight days before graduation. Only two entrances of the campus were open, with long lines of students waiting to get through identification checkpoints. Days before graduation, tall fencing cordoned off Alumni Park in the center of campus, where the encampment had been cleared.

USC President Carol Folt, in a letter to the USC community after police dismantled the encampment Sunday, said, “When free speech protests devolve into illegal occupations, violating the rights of others, we must draw a line.”

The heightened enforcement of campus rules at UC San Diego and UCLA represents a shift in tactics from a more light-handed approach that had allowed students to erect encampments under their free speech rights to support Palestinians and demand an end to Israeli’s bombardment in Gaza.

The response had to change at some encampments, where growing conflict was leading to skirmishes, blockages of some walkways, fortifications with plywood and, ultimately, the mob violence at UCLA, said a UC source who was not authorized to speak publicly.


“As things begin to escalate, universities are shifting from a tolerant ‘It’s OK, it’s free speech,’ to more ‘These things are going beyond free speech.’ It’s impeding the university’s delivery of services,” the source said. “It causes each of the universities to respond to how they are going to mitigate or work around or resolve what is happening on campus.

“One size doesn’t fit all. The campuses all have their own identity and culture. And they are all at different stages,” the source said.

Some students are pushing back against the stepped-up security and have expressed concerns about abuse of police power after the Monday arrests at UCLA.

“This is really apparent that the university is showing us their force, their power — whether it’s legal or not — to suppress what we’re trying to say,” said Marie Salem, a media liaison for the UCLA Palestine Solidarity Encampment. She was not among those arrested but spoke about how the arrests were igniting concerns among demonstrators who remained dedicated to calling for peace in Gaza.

“The response of the university is more police presence, more silencing, more intimidation,” a 28-year-old graduate student said. “We will continue on.”

UC police stand outside Dodd Hall as more protests emerged at UCLA.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Initially, an unidentified UCLA police officer told some reporters and observers that those detained were being held for delaying an investigation when asked for identification to look into a possible curfew violation, according to a video posted on social media platform X from a KNX News reporter. Hours later, however, a UCLA police lieutenant told the Daily Bruin that the 43 individuals were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary.

One student called this allegation false. The student shared a text sent Sunday about a low-key “sit-in style building occupation” with the rendezvous point at 6 a.m. Monday in the parking structure.

The LAPD and the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, both at the scene, declined to comment on the incident, saying UCLA’s Police Department is the lead agency. The Sheriff’s Department “is only involved in transporting,” said agency spokesperson Deputy Grace Medrano. UCLA officials did not respond to multiple questions about the nature of the arrests.

Those who were arrested Monday, who all appeared zip-tied, were escorted from the parking garage to an L.A. County Sheriff’s Department bus. There was at least one independent journalist among those arrested. He said he was booked on conspiracy to commit burglary, despite initially being stopped — and let go — by officers who said he was violating a curfew for people unaffiliated with the university. He refuted that he engaged in any unlawful behavior.

Pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators clash Sunday at UCLA, one day after protests erupted again at USC, where 93 people were arrested last week.

April 28, 2024

Meanwhile, at UC San Diego, students faced off with officers in riot gear, who descended on the encampment established five days ago, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The UC San Diego police tore down the structure and arrested 64 people, 40 of them students, on suspicion of unlawful assembly, a university spokesperson said.

The crackdown came the day after Chancellor Pradeep Khosla called the encampment “illegal” and said the group must disperse. Khosla emphasized in a letter to the community that he continued to support free speech but said the camp, which had tripled in size since its establishment, now posed an “unacceptable safety and security hazard.”

“As time passes, the threat and potential for violent clashes increases,” Khosla said.

Wooden stakes, propane tanks, metal and plywood shields, aerosol spray cans and a sword were found inside the camp, Khosla said in a statement Monday. Two minor injuries were reported in connection with the police activity, he said.


“After the encampment was removed,” the statement read, “protesters interfered with police operations, including physically obstructing San Diego County Sheriff officers and buses, blocking movement and banging on windows in an attempt to hinder the arrest process. This resulted in one additional arrest.”

Law enforcement officers stand at a parking garage entrance.
Police detained multiple people Monday in a campus parking garage at UCLA.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Less than 24 hours after a violent attack on a pro-Palestinian camp at UCLA, officers pulled apart barricades as they tore down the encampment and made arrests.

May 3, 2024

Under UC community safety guidelines, campuses are directed to rely on communication with protesters first to try to resolve issues and bring in police as a very last resort. Those guidelines were adopted after UC Davis police pepper-sprayed students protesting economic inequality in 2011 — actions that sparked a storm of controversy, the firing of at least one police officer and a systemwide review and report laying out new practices.

But as protests over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are evolving at some campuses, so has the approach in dealing with them, the UC source said.

Among encampments put up at eight of the nine UC undergraduate campuses, only UCLA and UC San Diego have called in law enforcement to take them down and made arrests as the sites began to experience more conflict.

UC Irvine was moving in that direction, but as things calmed down and conversations with protesters continued, the encampment has stayed intact. UC Davis students put up an encampment in the grassy quad Monday; campus officials are allowing it for now as it has remained small and peaceful. Such camps also remain at UC campuses in Santa Barbara, Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

After a mob attack last week, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block on Sunday announced a new Office of Campus Safety to oversee the university Police Department and emergency management operations. The new office is headed by former Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel. Braziel reports directly to Block in a new unit that is focused solely on safety. Previously, the security operations were overseen by Administrative Vice Chancellor Michael Beck as one of several responsibilities.

Protesters gather on the UCLA campus.
More protests emerged at UCLA on Monday.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Although Braziel began his duties immediately Sunday, UCLA Police Chief John Thomas remains in control of the Police Department. It was not clear whether Thomas had increased the number of UCLA officers on duty Monday or what direction he gave them.

But as turmoil continued on campus Monday, Thomas’ ability to manage the operations effectively and communicate critical information to the media and public, including details of the arrests, was being questioned.

Calls for him to step aside were now “ear-splitting,” according to one source who was not authorized to speak publicly. Three sources told The Times last week that Thomas failed to provide a written security plan and secure enough law enforcement officers to keep the campus community safe.

He has defended his actions, telling The Times last week he did “everything I can” to call in enough police to protect the community.

Times staff writers James Queally, Summer Lin, Ashley Ahn and staff photographer Brian van der Brug contributed to this report.