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Tension grows on UCLA campus as police order dispersal of large pro-Palestinian gathering

A large crowd of students, alumni and neighbors gathered on campus steps outside the barricaded area of tents, sitting as they listened and applauded various speakers and joined in pro-Palestinian chants.

UCLA campusLOS ANGELES: Law enforcement on the UCLA campus donned riot gear Wednesday evening as they ordered the dispersal of over a thousand people who had gathered in support of a pro-Palestinian student encampment, warning over loudspeakers that anyone who refused to leave could face arrest.

A large crowd of students, alumni and neighbors gathered on campus steps outside the barricaded area of tents, sitting as they listened and applauded various speakers and joined in pro-Palestinian chants. Overhead television cameras showed students in the barricaded area passing out goggles and helmets, as well as setting up medical aid stations. A small group of students holding signs and wearing T-shirts in support of Israel and Jewish people gathered nearby.

The law enforcement presence and continued warnings stood in contrast to the scene that unfolded the night before, when counter-demonstrators attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment, throwing traffic cones, releasing pepper spray and tearing down barriers. Fighting continued for several hours before police stepped in, and no one was arrested. At least 15 protesters suffered injuries, and the tepid response by authorities drew criticism from political leaders as well as Muslim students and advocacy groups.

Ray Wiliani, who lives nearby, said he came to UCLA on Wednesday evening to support the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

“We need to take a stand for it,” he said. “Enough is enough.”

Elsewhere, police in New Hampshire made arrests and took down tents at Dartmouth College and officers in Oregon came onto the campus at Portland State University as school officials sought to end the occupation of the library that started Monday.

The chaotic scenes at UCLA came just hours after New York police burst into a building occupied by anti-war protesters at Columbia University on Tuesday night, breaking up a demonstration that had paralyzed the school.

An Associated Press tally counted at least 38 times since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the U.S. More than 1,600 people have been arrested at 30 schools.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement that “a group of instigators” perpetrated the previous night’s attack, but he did not provide details about the crowd or why the administration and school police did not act sooner.

“However one feels about the encampment, this attack on our students, faculty and community members was utterly unacceptable,” he said. “It has shaken our campus to its core.”

Block promised a review of the night’s events after California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Los Angeles mayor denounced the delays.

“The community needs to feel the police are protecting them, not enabling others to harm them,” Rebecca Husaini, chief of staff for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said in a news conference on the Los Angeles campus later Wednesday, where some Muslim students detailed the overnight events.

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