A tense standoff continued at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on Thursday night after police arrested at least 50 student and faculty protesters at a campus encampment, where they have been campaigning against Israel’s war on Gaza.

Despite the arrests, at least some students remained on campus, continuing their protest. Others started returning to the protest site, UCLA Radio reported.

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“We’re not leaving,” and “peaceful protest!” chanted the student protesters as the police launched tear gas shells and arrested students and teachers.

The protesters were asked to leave less than a day after the encampment was attacked by a pro-Israel group of counter-protesters, prompting criticism of the Los Angeles Police Department, whose officers were accused of not responding in time.

What happened at UCLA?

UCLA students pitched tents on April 25 in a peaceful protest against Israel’s war on Gaza, and demanding that UCLA divest from companies with financial ties to Israel, acknowledge Palestinian lives and statehood and condemn “Israel as an apartheid state”.
On Tuesday, the university declared the encampment illegal, as other university protests around the country witnessed crackdowns by law enforcement authorities. The university also threatened students with disciplinary consequences such as expulsion or suspension.
Hours later, a group of pro-Israel counter-protesters attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment.
Less than a day after the attack, the University of California Police Department (UCPD) ordered the encampment to disperse at 5:50pm (00:50 GMT) on Wednesday. Next, the LAPD ordered the protesters to disperse or face arrest, at 6:30pm (01:30 GMT). The protesters were later issued a deadline of 1:00 am (08:00 GMT) on Thursday to disperse. The students stood their ground.
The students in the encampment used wood to barricade the encampment. They also locked arms, donned helmets and distributed goggles to protect themselves from the LAPD and counter-protesters, who on Wednesday night parked a van with “a swastika imposed on the Star of David” behind Royce Hall, UCLA radio reported. The protesters formed a human chain at the bottom of Tongva Steps, an iconic staircase that cascades down west of Dickson Plaza. Close to Dickson Plaza is Dickson Court, the venue of the encampment.
While the officers initially retreated from the Tongva Steps for reasons that are unclear, they started using stun grenades before launching tear gas shells.
Between 3:30am (10:30 GMT) and 4:00am (11:00 GMT), students and faculty members were arrested. The arrested protesters were lined them up with their knees on the grass and handcuffs behind hair backs as five prison buses lined up to transport them, UCLA radio reported.
On Thursday morning, as a smaller set of students continued their protest on campus, UCLA radio said police were stripping off face masks from students.

Where did it happen?

UCLA is located in Westwood, Los Angeles. It is home to the largest undergraduate student body among the 10 University of California campuses. The University of California is the world’s largest university system.
The encampment and arrests took place in the northeast part of campus.
The UCLA encampment is set up at Dickson Court, which is towards the north of campus and east of Dickson Plaza.
At midnight on Thursday, UCLA radio reported that law enforcement, armed with rifles and riot gear was on the east side of Dickson Court.
The officers circled the Tongva Steps. Other groups of officers moved near Fowler Museum, Haines Hall and Royce Hall that all adjoin Dickson Plaza, UCLA radio reported.

[Al Jazeera]

Who attacked the UCLA encampment?

The encampment at UCLA saw violence on Wednesday night when a pro-Israel group attacked.
Protesting students from UCLA were assaulted with pepper spray, sticks, stones and metal fencing.
The pro-Israel attackers also hurled fireworks into the encampment.
On Wednesday morning, the students rebuilt the encampment as police presence around campus grew, UCLA radio reported.
The university announced that classes were cancelled for the day “due to the distress caused by the violence that took place on Royce Quad”. It additionally announced that Royce Hall would remain closed.

What was the police response to the UCLA encampment attack?

Witnesses said the LAPD stood by and only intervened nearly four hours after the attack.
The LAPD released a statement on Wednesday saying the LAPD, alongside other state and local law enforcement agencies, responded to UCLA’s requests to intervene following the violence.
The statement added that arrests were not made and no force was used. The LAPD said it would remain in the area to “ensure public safety until the situation is resolved”.

What’s next?

Many protesters, even those who have been arrested, say they will continue their demonstrations “no matter what”, Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reported from the UCLA campus.

“We’ll see what form the protests take and whether at some point the university … feels they need to have some sort of dialogue, or whether they will continue to suppress [the protests],” he said.

“Finally, will this extremely highly publicised event, with dozens and hundreds of cameras focused on these students … have a cumulative effect on US public opinion on Israel’s war on Gaza and the role the US government plays in it?” Reynolds added.

On Wednesday night, flashbangs fired by police interrupted Al Jazeera’s report as police moved in to disperse antiwar protesters at UCLA.

What have been the reactions so far?

Several senior politicians have criticised the attack on the pro-Palestinian protesters by the pro-Israel group late on Tuesday night.

California governor Gavin Newsom released a statement on Wednesday morning saying “I condemn the violence at UCLA last night.”

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass released a statement on X on Wednesday afternoon saying that, “Those involved in launching fireworks at other people, spraying chemicals and physically assaulting others will be found, arrested, and prosecuted, as well as anyone involved in any form of violence or lawlessness.”