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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

UCLA creates campus safety role as it prepares to reopen classes

A worker from the facilities management department at the University of California Los Angeles uses a pressure washer to remove graffiti from a building on the school’s campus, on Friday, May 3, 2024. (Mark Abramson/The New York Times)

By Emily Cochrane, Matthew Eadie and Shawn Hubler

The University of California, Los Angeles, said Sunday that it had created a new campus safety position as the school moves to reopen this week and examines what led to clashes between demonstrators.

The appointment of Rick Braziel, a former chief of the Sacramento Police Department and a well-known policing expert, to oversee the school police department comes as the UCLA administration and other schools across the country face backlash over an aggressive police response to pro-Palestinian demonstrators on university property.

John Thomas, UCLA’s current school police chief, has defended himself over a delayed police response as counterprotesters attempted to tear down an encampment built by students protesting Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. And on the opposite coast, a group of professors at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville signed an open letter condemning the treatment of pro-Palestinian students and faculty on Saturday, which saw police in riot gear spray people with a chemical irritant.

At least 25 people were arrested Saturday in Charlottesville, adding to more than 2,300 arrests in more than two weeks of campus demonstrations and police sweeps, according to a New York Times tally.

The way that many universities have responded to protests has further galvanized pro-Palestinian students across the country, who have used public graduation ceremonies this month as yet another opportunity to criticize Israel’s war in Gaza and to renew calls on their universities to divest from Israel.

Here’s what else to know:

— At Northeastern University’s graduation ceremony at Fenway Park in Boston on Sunday, a student wearing a kaffiyeh and red paint on their face and a shirt reading “DIVEST” ran up to the stage chanting before they were forcibly removed by police. And when the student speaker for the commencement, Rebecca Bamidele, called for a permanent end to the violence in Gaza, some students cheered and gave her a standing ovation.

— The police early Sunday removed a pro-Palestinian encampment from the University of Southern California’s campus for a second time. The university has been in turmoil for weeks following its decision not to allow its valedictorian to speak at graduation, citing security concerns.

— At least three dozen history professors at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville signed an open letter condemning “the repression of a peaceful protest of our students by armed state police in riot gear,” a day after pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with police.

— At the University of Chicago, student protesters remained at their encampment for a seventh consecutive day Sunday, holding what they called “teach-ins” on subjects from knowing your rights to the history of the Gaza conflict. Students and officials spent the weekend privately negotiating over the removal of the encampment.

— Hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered at Kent State University in Ohio on Saturday, exactly 54 years after National Guard troops opened fire on students demonstrating against the Vietnam War, killing four of them.

— The University of Mississippi said it was investigating the conduct of at least one student after counterprotesters directed racist taunts at pro-Palestinian protesters. Sunday, the headquarters of Phi Delta Theta fraternity said that one person had been removed from its membership, saying that the “racist actions” captured in one video were “those of an individual and are antithetical to the values of Phi Delta Theta and the Mississippi Alpha chapter.”

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