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How Counterprotesters at U.C.L.A. Provoked Violence, Unchecked for Hours

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How Counterprotesters at U.C.L.A. Provoked Violence, Unchecked for Hours

A satellite image of the UCLA campus.

On Tuesday night, violence erupted at an encampment that pro-Palestinian protesters had set up on April 25.

The image is annotated to show the extent of the pro-Palestinian encampment, which takes up the width of the plaza between Powell Library and Royce Hall.

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The clashes began after counterprotesters tried to dismantle the encampment’s barricade. Pro-Palestinian protesters rushed to rebuild it, and violence ensued.

Arrows denote pro-Israeli counterprotesters moving towards the barricade at the edge of the encampment. Arrows show pro-Palestinian counterprotesters moving up against the same barricade.

Police arrived hours later, but they did not intervene immediately.

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An arrow denotes police arriving from the same direction as the counterprotesters and moving towards the barricade.

A New York Times examination of more than 100 videos from clashes at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that violence ebbed and flowed for nearly five hours, mostly with little or no police intervention. The violence had been instigated by dozens of people who are seen in videos counterprotesting the encampment.

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The videos showed counterprotesters attacking students in the pro-Palestinian encampment for several hours, including beating them with sticks, using chemical sprays and launching fireworks as weapons. As of Friday, no arrests had been made in connection with the attack.

To build a timeline of the events that night, The Times analyzed two livestreams, along with social media videos captured by journalists and witnesses.

The melee began when a group of counterprotesters started tearing away metal barriers that had been in place to cordon off pro-Palestinian protesters. Hours earlier, U.C.L.A. officials had declared the encampment illegal.

Security personnel hired by the university are seen in yellow vests standing to the side throughout the incident. A university spokesperson declined to comment on the security staff’s response.

Mel Buer/The Real News Network

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It is not clear how the counterprotest was organized or what allegiances people committing the violence had. The videos show many of the counterprotesters were wearing pro-Israel slogans on their clothing. Some counterprotesters blared music, including Israel’s national anthem, a Hebrew children’s song and “Harbu Darbu,” an Israeli song about the Israel Defense Forces’ campaign in Gaza.

As counterprotesters tossed away metal barricades, one of them was seen trying to strike a person near the encampment, and another threw a piece of wood into it — some of the first signs of violence.

Attacks on the encampment continued for nearly three hours before police arrived.

Counterprotesters shot fireworks toward the encampment at least six times, according to videos analyzed by The Times. One of them went off inside, causing protesters to scream. Another exploded at the edge of the encampment. One was thrown in the direction of a group of protesters who were carrying an injured person out of the encampment.

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Mel Buer/The Real News Network

Some counterprotesters sprayed chemicals both into the encampment and directly at people’s faces.

Sean Beckner-Carmitchel via Reuters

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At times, counterprotesters swarmed individuals — sometimes a group descended on a single person. They could be seen punching, kicking and attacking people with makeshift weapons, including sticks, traffic cones and wooden boards.

StringersHub via Associated Press, Sergio Olmos/Calmatters

In one video, protesters sheltering inside the encampment can be heard yelling, “Do not engage! Hold the line!”

In some instances, protesters in the encampment are seen fighting back, using chemical spray on counterprotesters trying to tear down barricades or swiping at them with sticks.

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Except for a brief attempt to capture a loudspeaker used by counterprotesters, and water bottles being tossed out of the encampment, none of the videos analyzed by The Times show any clear instance of encampment protesters initiating confrontations with counterprotesters beyond defending the barricades.

Shortly before 1 a.m. — more than two hours after the violence erupted — a spokesperson with the mayor’s office posted a statement that said U.C.L.A officials had called the Los Angeles Police Department for help and they were responding “immediately.”

Officers from a separate law enforcement agency — the California Highway Patrol — began assembling nearby, at about 1:45 a.m. Riot police with the L.A.P.D. joined them a few minutes later. Counterprotesters applauded their arrival, chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.!”

Just four minutes after the officers arrived, counterprotesters attacked a man standing dozens of feet from the officers.

Twenty minutes after police arrive, a video shows a counterprotester spraying a chemical toward the encampment during a scuffle over a metal barricade. Another counterprotester can be seen punching someone in the head near the encampment after swinging a plank at barricades.

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Fifteen minutes later, while those in the encampment chanted “Free, free Palestine,” counterprotesters organized a rush toward the barricades. During the rush, a counterprotester pulls away a metal barricade from a woman, yelling “You stand no chance, old lady.”

Throughout the intermittent violence, officers were captured on video standing about 300 feet away from the area for roughly an hour, without stepping in.

It was not until 2:42 a.m. that officers began to move toward the encampment, after which counterprotesters dispersed and the night’s violence between the two camps mostly subsided.

The L.A.P.D. and the California Highway Patrol did not answer questions from The Times about their responses on Tuesday night, deferring to U.C.L.A.

While declining to answer specific questions, a university spokesperson provided a statement to The Times from Mary Osako, U.C.L.A.’s vice chancellor of strategic communications: “We are carefully examining our security processes from that night and are grateful to U.C. President Michael Drake for also calling for an investigation. We are grateful that the fire department and medical personnel were on the scene that night.”

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L.A.P.D. officers were seen putting on protective gear and walking toward the barricade around 2:50 a.m. They stood in between the encampment and the counterprotest group, and the counterprotesters began dispersing.

While police continued to stand outside the encampment, a video filmed at 3:32 a.m. shows a man who was walking away from the scene being attacked by a counterprotester, then dragged and pummeled by others. An editor at the U.C.L.A. student newspaper, the Daily Bruin, told The Times the man was a journalist at the paper, and that they were walking with other student journalists who had been covering the violence. The editor said she had also been punched and sprayed in the eyes with a chemical.

On Wednesday, U.C.L.A.’s chancellor, Gene Block, issued a statement calling the actions by “instigators” who attacked the encampment unacceptable. A spokesperson for California Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized campus law enforcement’s delayed response and said it demands answers.

Los Angeles Jewish and Muslim organizations also condemned the attacks. Hussam Ayloush, the director of the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called on the California attorney general to investigate the lack of police response. The Jewish Federation Los Angeles blamed U.C.L.A. officials for creating an unsafe environment over months and said the officials had “been systemically slow to respond when law enforcement is desperately needed.”

Fifteen people were reportedly injured in the attack, according to a letter sent by the president of the University of California system to the board of regents.

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The night after the attack began, law enforcement warned pro-Palestinian demonstrators to leave the encampment or be arrested. By early Thursday morning, police had dismantled the encampment and arrested more than 200 people from the encampment.

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Video: ‘It Didn’t Have to Happen This Way:’ U.Va. Faculty Call for Review of Police Response to Protests

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Video: ‘It Didn’t Have to Happen This Way:’ U.Va. Faculty Call for Review of Police Response to Protests

Protesters: “Disclose! Divest!” In student-led protests around the country, university faculty have stood in support of demonstrators, risking arrest. “He is a professor. He is a professor.” At the University of Virginia, The Times got an inside look at faculty’s role. “I can take you through the blow by blow of the day if you want.” And how their negotiations with police broke down at a crucial moment. “Why is he —” “Back up.” “In a wanton fashion, they allowed the Virginia State Police to come here fully armed, rifles, mace. One of my colleagues was standing right there trying to talk to the Virginia State Police. He got arrested. The other one standing next to him got pushed back behind the line, and he got partially maced. It didn’t have to happen this way.” The night before police raided a pro-Palestinian encampment, a few University of Virginia professors tried to deescalate the standoff and recorded their conversation with the university police chief, Tim Longo. The Times agreed to blur the faces of faculty who had concerns about their job security. Protesters had refused to engage with the university. So a handful of professors stepped in to be intermediaries. This, at times, frustrated administrators who told The Times the process required a leap of faith. “We basically took shifts, two-hour shifts being here. We had these yellow armbands that we wore to distinguish that we were faculty liaison. And our job really was just to communicate between the administration, the police and the students.” Hours later, Professors Walter Heinecke and Mark Sicoli, who documented the incident on his phone, approached the police chief again, stating confusion about what the campus policy actually states for use of smaller recreational tents. Within half an hour, before professors and police could come to an agreement about the tent policy, Chief Longo called the Virginia State Police. Troopers soon arrived with pepper spray and M4 assault rifles to help dismantle the encampment. In all, a few dozen protesters in about 20 tents. “Shame on you. Shame on you.” University officials say they warned protesters for days that they were in violation of school policy. Twenty-seven people were arrested, including at least one professor, who declined to speak with us for this story. “He is a professor. This is a professor.” “We were in front of the camp students. And then in front of us were faculty. And then the Virginia State Police were here and moved in. I was hit with a riot shield, which is when I got this bruise. They pepper-sprayed me. I was detained for about 10 minutes, if I had to guess. And then eventually, they just, like, cut off my zip ties.” The heavy police response raised alarm across campus. And now, several faculty members, including Heinecke, want to hold the university accountable for what they say was a violent clampdown on free speech, protesting Israel’s war in Gaza. “I’ve just got to show you one thing where they get around on —” “If they would have just said, you know, let’s negotiate, let’s leave the tents up for a couple more days and we’ll negotiate this out. It’s not like you’re robbing a bank or anything. You put a couple of tents on. Why couldn’t we have just done this a different way because the stakes were so low?” The university president and campus police chief did not respond to requests for comment. “And then I’ll turn to Chief Longo.” But in a virtual town hall on May 7, university police and administration defended their actions, citing unidentified outside agitators as a primary concern. “The police were met with physical confrontation and attempted assault, and didn’t feel equipped to engage given the situation. That’s when the decision was made to call on the state police.” “We have a duty to fight for Palestine.” “We have a —” “I was afraid that myself and the assistant chief would be surrounded, and that we would be put in a position to have to defend ourselves. It was clear to me by word and action, this was escalating.” “Free, free Palestine.” “In front of the historic rotunda.” In response, Heinecke and several other faculty members held their own town hall to try to show that the police action was unwarranted. Then on May 10, the U.V.A. faculty senate held a hearing with President Ryan to discuss the university response to protests. “I, for one, am thankful for him that he prevented us to get into a situation, which would be similar to a Columbia.” While there was support, most of the speakers were critical. “My heart broke because of what took place.” “To the condemnable call of the Virginia State Police in full gear, and the use of excessive force to terrorize our students in their own backyard.” “If all of you decide I’m not the right leader, that’s your choice.” In a vote, faculty called for an independent review of his and Chief Longo’s decisions on May 4, but stopped short of condemning the police action outright. “All right. Once again, I need people who are just here for court.” On the same day across town, supporters of protesters facing trespassing charges gathered in solidarity at the courthouse. “It’s first hearing for everybody who was charged with trespass, which includes our two students.” On May 15, many of those arrested at the protest encampment had their charges dismissed by the public prosecutor. A U.V.A. spokesman told The Times that the university has not yet agreed to an independent review of its decision to call in state police.

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Video: Hundreds of Harvard Students Walk Out at Commencement

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Video: Hundreds of Harvard Students Walk Out at Commencement

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Hundreds of Harvard Students Walk Out at Commencement

The students were protesting Harvard University’s decision to bar 13 seniors from the ceremony in the wake of campus demonstrations over the war in Gaza.

Crowd: “Let them walk. Let them walk, let them walk.”

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Video: Protesters Scuffle With Police During Pomona College Commencement

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Video: Protesters Scuffle With Police During Pomona College Commencement

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Protesters Scuffle With Police During Pomona College Commencement

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators tried to block access to Pomona College’s graduation ceremony on Sunday.

[chanting in call and response] Not another nickel, not another dime. No more money for Israel’s crime. Resistance is justified when people are occupied.

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