Police clear pro-Palestine camp at Cal State LA;  no arrests reported – Daily News

Police clear pro-Palestine camp at Cal State LA; no arrests reported – Daily News

Police clear pro-Palestine camp at Cal State LA;  no arrests reported – Daily News

A fence surrounds a pro-Palestinian camp at Cal State LA, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Activists occupied and barricaded the student services building demanding divestment from Israel Wednesday night. (File photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Less than a week after protesters staged a sit-in and vandalized a campus building, police cleared a pro-Palestine encampment that had been set up for more than a month at Cal State Los Angeles. There were no arrests, according to reports.

California Highway Patrol officers moved into the camp early Monday afternoon. Cal State LA spokesman Erik Frost Hollins told the media that only seven people were still in the camp and all had voluntarily dispersed when the order to vacate came in the afternoon.

No force was used by the officers and no arrests were made, Hollins said.

Protest leaders from CSULA’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) shared an Instagram post on Monday showing photos and images and saying their camp had been “forcefully swept away.”

“Over 150 pigs sweep the camp in broad daylight with an overwhelming police presence and no notice from the admin,” the post said. Between 1:10 and 2:00 p.m., they claim, there were three dozen police units on campus and that police were dressed in riot gear, surrounding the camp and announcing, “If you stay, you will be arrested.” They said the camp members had five minutes to gather their belongings and leave.

The largely peaceful camp, which involved both SJP students and affiliated teachers, was first formed outside the school’s gymnasium on May 1.

Through daily activities and occasional campus rallies for more than 40 days, student activists have demanded that the university divest itself of Israeli interests and disclose its investments, among other concerns.

SJP leaders and other pro-Palestinian activists at CSULA said their school leaders “continue to dance and suppress our demands for divestment.”

Last Wednesday, June 12, they accelerated their demands Wednesday night by taking over the Student Services building while several Cal State LA employees and administrative staff, including President Berenecea Johnson Eanes, were inside, officials confirmed. They barricaded the entrance with umbrellas, tables and chairs, according to reports, and some chained themselves to the building.

The school sent out a shelter-in-place order that afternoon and told others to leave campus.

Police were able to escort some of the employees out of the building within hours of the occupation, Hollins said. He said Eanes was among the 12 administrators initially sheltering inside the building. Eanes and the remaining administrators left the building at midnight Thursday morning.

“There were a dozen, then it went down to half a dozen administrators who stayed in the building to deal with the situation throughout the evening,” Hollins said.

Most of the protesters voluntarily left the Student Services building around 1 a.m., according to reports, and returned to the existing pro-Palestine camp a few meters away. Those remaining were convinced by university officials a short time later, officials said.

The protesters reiterated that they are not holding anyone hostage in the student services building. Significant damage – including broken windows and glass, spray-painted graffiti, overturned campus vehicles and destruction of services – was reported inside.

On Thursday afterwards, President Eanes condemned the “violence and destruction” of the building, telling members of the camp that they had “crossed the line” and had to leave. As long as the camp remained peaceful, Eanes said, university officials allowed it to stay amid ongoing negotiations with camp leaders over their demands.

“I have been in continuous formal and informal communication with the camp and its advisors. I entered the camp twice. I have made significant commitments to transparency, respectful conversations and support for mental health. All of this is within my authority and aligned with our first principles as a university,” Eanes said in her community message. As long as the camp remained non-violent, I was committed to the university continuing to speak out.”

Eanes also said in his statement that three CSULA employees and one student were assaulted during the occupation. No other details have been released.

“I’m sad and I’m angry,” she said. The trust we had in the camp to practice non-violence was violated. Trust is a hard thing to restore, but we will do the work together.”

A criminal investigation was underway as of last Thursday, but no arrests were reported related to the occupation or vandalism of the building.

All classes at CSULA’s main campus have been held remotely since last week’s occupation, Hollins said. Classes will resume remotely on Tuesday, and officials plan to “re-evaluate thereafter.”

“Our primary concern at Cal State LA has always been the safety and security of all involved: our students, faculty, staff, the public and the protesters,” Eanes said. “Significant damage to SSB will affect student services: including admissions, registration, accessible technology, basic needs, new student and family engagement, Dreamer resources and educational opportunity programs. It will take time to restore all those spaces and divert significant resources that would otherwise go to universities, student services or operations.”

The California State University system “does not intend to change existing investment policies related to Israel or the Israel-Hamas conflict,” according to an April 30 statement from the Chancellor’s Office.

“Due to state law and the restrictions of CSU’s investment policies, CSU does not invest directly in stocks or shares in any company. The system invests in mutual funds, bonds and other instruments. Through careful stewardship of the university’s funds, CSU’s investments ensure a steady stream of revenue that benefits our students and faculty and supports our critical campus facilities, scholarships and other key elements of our educational mission,” the statement said.

“While CSU affirms the right of members of our community to express diverse viewpoints, a divestment of this type affects the academic freedom of our students and faculty and the unfettered exchange of ideas on our campuses.”

CSU Chancellor Mildred García also condemned the protesters’ actions last week.

“What happened yesterday at Cal State LA was unacceptable,” Garcia said in a statement. “I want to be clear: CSU has demonstrated that we value freedom of expression and peaceful protest, but we do not accept illegal acts that put people at risk. Vandalism, destruction of property, assault, robbery are not free speech, they are not protected activities.

“My office and I are in close contact with President Eanes and will provide her and her team with the support they need as they assess the damage that has been done and begin to heal as a community.”