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Police called in to break up confrontations at UCLA campus protest


First, though a two-week-old demonstration that helped ignite campus protests nationwide, the pro-Palestinian demonstration at Columbia University, is over for now. Police with riot shields last night pushed into a building on campus that student protesters had occupied, and they made dozens of arrests. Across the country in Los Angeles, another campus demonstration saw fights break out early this morning between protesters and counterprotesters. Police moved in to break up the confrontations on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. That's where reporter Steve Futterman is watching. Steve, I can kind of hear helicopters above you. What are you seeing in front of you now?

STEVE FUTTERMAN, BYLINE: Well, right now, things have really calmed down, but a few hours ago, it was anything but. There were pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israeli counterprotesters essentially facing off. There were numerous scuttles, lots of pushing, fistfights, nasty words exchanged. This is a bit what it sounded like.


FUTTERMAN: Now, some people were carrying sticks, although I didn't see anyone actually use them. In the middle of all this, there stood one man. His name is Thomas Ryan. He stood between the two sides and tried to keep them separated.


THOMAS RYAN: Everybody made their point. Come on. Come n. Don't escalate. Come on. It's over. There's just a couple of rabble-rousers. Everybody's upset. But let's just separate it and call it a night, and we'll figure it out tomorrow.

FUTTERMAN: Now, he wasn't able to actually stop the scuffles, but he was able to briefly calm things down from time to time, and it did make a bit of a difference. Now, both sides are accusing the other for instigating the trouble. Those inside the encampment are blaming the counterprotesters for what happened, the counter-protesters blaming those inside the encampment.

MARTÍNEZ: Steve, what happened before LAPD was called in?

FUTTERMAN: Well, initially, they were not here. Now, the law enforcement agency with primary jurisdiction at UCLA is the University of California police. They have to formally request help from the LAPD. Eventually, they did, and LAPD officers, along with officers from the California Highway Patrol, did respond. And what they did was basically slowly push everyone out of this area. The protesters kept moving away as the officers approached. Now, the area where the melee was taking place is completely clear at this time, although there's a very visible police presence.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. And what are police saying? Did they make any arrests?

FUTTERMAN: As far as we know, there were no arrests. The protesters on both sides, as I mentioned, pretty much were cooperative as this area was cleared. It was obvious they did not want to be arrested. I did see police with those plastic zip ties, which they use when people are arrested to tie their hands behind their backs, but they didn't have to use them.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, now, Steve, what do we know about how the university administrators at UCLA intend to handle this?

FUTTERMAN: Well, that's really the big question, A. The school last night declared the encampment illegal. That's a big switch from the previous days when UCLA officials said they would allow the encampment to continue as long as things remain peaceful. So what will they now do about the encampment? Marie Salem, who's part of the encampment, says she's not moving.

MARIE SALEM: We are not leaving. We are here to divest. By the university not responding, we see that they are so complicit in the genocide they would rather see us injured than divest. So we are here to stay. We are stronger than ever. We were able to hold it off ourselves. We keep each other safe, and we will not be moving until we hit that divestment.

FUTTERMAN: And of course, that has become a main demand here, that UCLA divest itself from any economic and academic connections with Israel. Now, there are other students and faculty members who would like police to move in and clear the encampment, but that's going to be a decision that's made by UCLA - no indication right now if the school is going to give those inside the encampment a deadline to leave.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's reporter Steve Futterman on the campus of UCLA in Westwood. Steve, thank you.

FUTTERMAN: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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