UCLA students and staff were among more than 200 people arrested as police broke up the pro-Palestinian camp

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - May 2: Police clash with pro-Palestinian protesters after a dispersal order was given at UCLA early Thursday morning.  (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Police clash with pro-Palestinian protesters after a dispersal order was given at UCLA early Thursday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

More than 200 people were arrested Thursday morning as police moved into the pro-Palestinian camp at UCLA, dismantling tents and driving away protesters in an hours-long clash.

The operation caps a two-day riot that began when UCLA declared the camp “unlawful” and continued when a group of pro-Israel counter-protesters attacked the camp Tuesday night and took police hours to stop the violence.

Early Thursday morning, officers wearing body armor, helmets and face shields methodically tore apart the barricade as protesters tried to hold the collection of plywood and metal fencing together. Police fired flares that arced over the camp and ignited with piercing shots, and smoke from fire extinguishers that protesters sprayed at police filled the air. A video shows at least one officer firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

Hours later, as police continued to push people out of the area, trash was seen strewn on the lawn. Tents were overturned and surrounding buildings were spray-painted with words in support of Gaza. Bulldozers rolled onto campus to clear away the rubble. Emergency crews placed tents, chairs, food and other supplies in large dumpsters.

A number of police officers clash with pro-Palestinian protesters at UCLA.A number of police officers clash with pro-Palestinian protesters at UCLA.

A line of police officers wearing body armor, helmets and face shields clash with pro-Palestinian protesters at UCLA. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles)

The police’s predawn operation was on multiple fronts: Police used stun grenades that reverberated across campus and disoriented the crowd.

Other officers watched from the high windows of Royce Hall and infuriated the protesters by shining lights in their eyes and demanding that they come down.

A man was hit in the chest with a rubber bullet after California Highway Patrol officers told protesters to stop throwing boards and other objects at them. It is unclear whether the man threw anything and how many others were injured.

After a series of tense confrontations, police cleared protesters from Royce Hall. Some appeared to leave the scene on their own, but many were arrested. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, 209 people were arrested. Many were charged on suspicion of failure to disperse, a felony, a law enforcement source told the Times.

Read more:Photos: Clashes at pro-Palestinian campus demonstrations in California

Due to the unrest, UCLA has moved all classes online for the remainder of the week.

It’s not clear how many of those arrested are UCLA students. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Five students from Occidental College at UCLA were taken into custody, according to Matthew Vickers, a member of the Occidental chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine.

By midmorning, students, university employees and other protesters streamed out of the jail in downtown Los Angeles, carrying plastic bags full of belongings and yellow ID cards.

As they left the prison one by one, they were greeted with cheers from a crowd of students and lawyers across the street. Many chanted “Free Palestine” as they left the building.

Ella, a UCLA sophomore who declined to give her last name, said it was a stressful and disappointing night.

“This is nothing compared to what the children in Gaza are going through,” she said.

Some said they had planned to return to the UCLA campus Thursday evening.

“We’re definitely not done yet,” said a woman carrying a carton of orange juice and clenching her fist as she walked out. “I’ve never been so proud of myself.”

Yaas Farzanefar, a 23-year-old UC Berkeley graduate student, said she witnessed many faculty members being arrested first — including a neurogenetics professor — followed by her and her friend.

“They used a lot of rubber bullets at close range,” Farzanefar said. “The students only had umbrellas.”

Read more:“I was terribly afraid.” Students’ fears caused by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are increasing rapidly

President Biden addressed the ongoing protests on college campuses Thursday, saying that while he understands that Americans have strong feelings, “that doesn’t mean anything is possible.”

“Vandalism, trespassing, the breaking of windows, the closure of campuses, the forced cancellation of classes and graduation ceremonies – none of this is peaceful protest,” Biden said. “Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder or the denial of the rights of others so that students can complete the semester and their college education.”

He reiterated that discrimination should never be tolerated.

“There is no place for hate speech or violence of any kind, be it anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or discrimination against Arab or Palestinian Americans. It’s just wrong,” he said.

As the police operation began, about 15 LAPD officers pushed through a makeshift barricade near the school’s Tongva Steps around 1:30 a.m. before protesters pushed them back, according to a UCLA student who witnessed the incident.

The student, who declined to give his name, said the protesters who wanted to stay were prepared to be arrested.

“The people who have been here all the time are suffering from sleep deprivation, but the people here are ready to defend the camp,” she said.

UCLA police repeatedly announced over loudspeakers that protesters should clear the area “immediately” and that those who did not would be arrested.

Pro-Palestinian protesters kneel outside Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, press their heads to the ground and pray.Pro-Palestinian protesters kneel outside Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, press their heads to the ground and pray.

Pro-Palestinian protesters pray outside Royce Hall on the UCLA campus on Wednesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

In recent weeks, UCLA, like other universities across the country, has become a hotbed of pro-Palestinian activism.

Students, faculty and staff have set up makeshift camps and called for an end to Israel’s war in Gaza and for their universities to divest from companies that sell weapons or services to Israel.

Pro-Palestinian protesters wearing white riot helmets watch as police break through a fence.Pro-Palestinian protesters wearing white riot helmets watch as police break through a fence.

Pro-Palestinian protesters watch as police break through a fence to their tent on the UCLA campus early Thursday morning. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Police at a building on the UCLA campus, where debris is strewn on steps and Police at a building on the UCLA campus, where debris is strewn on steps and

Police in one of the buildings on the UCLA campus on Thursday. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Citing “ample confusion” surrounding the events, UC President Michael V. Drake said he was ordering an independent review of the university’s actions and law enforcement response.

UCLA faculty distributed a letter with about 360 signatures to Chancellor Gene Block on Wednesday demanding no police or disciplinary action be taken against students.

When police arrived in large numbers early Wednesday evening, students lined up arm in arm to prevent police from reaching the camp.

Uniformed officers in riot gear stand together.Uniformed officers in riot gear stand together.

UCLA campus police officers and LA County Sheriff’s deputies stand guard during the campus protest at UCLA. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

An hours-long standoff followed, with hundreds of other protesters showing up and filling the courtyard steps between the tent camp and most of the police officers.

A small number of pro-Israel activists showed up with a large flag, but they were far outnumbered and no violence occurred.

Behind the camp’s plywood barricades, the mood was worried but not panicked. People handed out respirators, masks and buckets to fill with water if necessary to flush tear gas from their eyes.

A woman handing out cookies, grapes and granola bars to protesters said: “This is the revolution. You must eat.”

Pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel supporters clash as a metal barricade blows up.Pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel supporters clash as a metal barricade blows up.

Pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel activists clash at a UCLA camp early Wednesday morning. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Meanwhile, on the street opposite the camp, dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters streamed into the lanes in front of Dickson Plaza, chanting: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Matt Barreto, a professor of Chicano studies and political science, stood under a blue and gold banner that read, “UCLA faculty and staff, we stand with our students.”

Barreto said he was one of about 30 faculty and staff at the camp, ready to be arrested alongside the students.

“Our job is to advocate for their 1st Amendment rights, their rights on their own campus. We’re not trying to speak for the students,” he said. “We’re just here to support them and make sure no harm comes to them, especially after last night.”

“We will stand here all night and hold this banner,” he added.

Times staff writers Summer Lin and Ashley Ahn And Times staff photographer Jason Armondcontributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.