Advertisement

After ‘significant’ vandalism overnight, Cal State L.A. president says encampment must end

A police officer walks past an opening in barricades surrounding the student services building at Cal State L.A.
A university police officer walks past an opening in barricades surrounding the student services building at Cal State L.A.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Share via

Scores of pro-Palestinian protesters occupied, barricaded and vandalized a Cal State Los Angeles student services building — with several administrators inside — for almost eight hours Wednesday. Although no one was arrested, university officials said the activists crossed a new line.

“A trust we had in the [Gaza Solidarity] Encampment to practice non-violence has been violated,” Cal State L.A. President Berenecea Johnson Eanes said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night’s illegal activities from being held accountable.”

The building, which houses Eanes’ office and is not far from the pro-Palestinian encampment, was deemed a crime scene by authorities Thursday, with yellow police tape cordoning off the protester-made blockades.

Tables, hard-shelled umbrellas and rope still blocked many of the building’s entrances. Multiple windows, walls and walkways were defaced with messages in red paint, including “Free Palestine” and “Your grandkids will study your silence.”

Advertisement

Erik Frost Hollins, a spokesperson for the school, said all protesters left the building voluntarily by early Thursday, and the administrators who stayed in the building as the protest escalated did so of their own accord.

It wasn’t immediately clear if arrests were expected, but Hollins said law enforcement officials were continuing to investigate.

In her statement, Eanes said the group had destroyed offices, stolen property and left “significant damage.”

“Campus community: Know that we will recover from this, but also know that I am committed to doing everything we can to ensure this will never be allowed to repeat,” Eanes said. “The Encampment has crossed a line. Those in the Encampment must leave.”

As of Thursday afternoon, the camp — which was established in early May — remained fortified, with people inside, even as the rest of campus was eerily quiet. After the building takeover Wednesday, university officials moved classes online indefinitely and canceled campus events. A few people who exited and entered the encampment Thursday declined to speak to The Times, but on social media the group said they remained steadfast.

Overturned furniture displays pro-Palestinian messages at Cal State Los Angeles.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

“WE WILL NOT BACK DOWN!!” Students for Justice in Palestine at CSULA posted on Instagram on Thursday morning. The group reiterated that no one was held hostage or trapped inside the student services building Wednesday, saying they offered to escort out anyone who wanted to leave. They said the action began as a sit-in to raise awareness about their main demand, which is “to end Cal State L.A.’s complicity in genocide,” according to a news release from the group.

Hollins said a group of 50 to 100 people descended on the eight-story building about 4 p.m. Wednesday, when university officials told staff there to shelter in place. Around 60 employees remained there for roughly two hours before security officers established a safe exit. About a dozen staff members — including Hollins and Eanes — voluntarily stayed behind.

“That was by choice, to manage the situation,” said Hollins, who uses they/them pronouns. That group left around midnight without issue.

Most of the group who barricaded the building left voluntarily by 1 a.m. Thursday, they said, and the remaining holdouts left after police entered and ordered a dispersal shortly after.

Eanes said three employees and one student reported having been assaulted during the incident, but she did not elaborate on the extent of any injuries.

Hollins said there was significant damage on the first four floors of the student services building, including extensive graffiti and paint, as well as damage to equipment, walls and pipes. They said the majority of the upper floors, where the president’s office is located, was not affected.

Advertisement

The university did not provide an estimate for the cost of the damage.

Messages near the pro-Palestinian encampment at Cal State Los Angeles
Messages are displayed near the pro-Palestinian encampment at Cal State Los Angeles.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

The damage to the student services building “will affect student-facing services: including admissions, records, accessible technology, basic needs, new student and family engagement, Dreamer resources, and educational opportunity programs,” Eanes said. “It will take time to restore all those spaces and divert significant resources that would otherwise go to academics, student services, or operations.”

With in-person classes and events canceled, the East L.A. campus was almost deserted after the chaos from just hours earlier.

“We have secured all buildings on campus,” Hollins said, “and I think we have committed to staying remote as long as we need to, to actually be sure that this is fully resolved.”

At the encampment Thursday, a barrier constructed of plywood, wooden pallets, tables and sheet metal reached several feet high in some spots around it.

The group posted on social media, “[W]e want our demands met,” which include the university divesting from defense companies, removing law enforcement from campus and making a statement supporting an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza, among others.

Advertisement

Eanes “has refused to continue negotiations or make meaningful progress toward meeting the demands of the student body,” the groups said in a news release. “Delaying negotiations past the end of the spring semester at a commuter campus shows clear bad faith and an attempt to wait out students instead of actively working to reach an agreement.”

But Eanes argued that she had been in “ongoing formal and informal communication” with the group and its advisors, including visiting the encampment twice.

“I made significant commitments on transparency, respectful conversations, and mental health support,” the president said in her statement. “These are all within my authority and aligned with our first principles as a university. So long as the Encampment remained non-violent, I was committed that the university would continue to talk.”

A few others at the university on Thursday weren’t aware of what had recently transpired or that events had been canceled, such as an incoming freshman who was supposed to have orientation. Another woman was there to work an event, then found out it had been canceled.

A barricade made of chairs and tables taken from campus blocks a walkway at a university.
Furniture used as a barricade blocks a pathway to the student services building at Cal State Los Angeles.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Emily Samperio, a graduate student studying materials science, knew her lab was closed Thursday but came to take photos of the aftermath from the previous night.

She hasn’t been involved with the encampment or protests but has watched the movement grow on campus.

“I’m proud of them,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s cool to see all these schools stand together for something they believe in.”

This is the first time, though, that her work or classes have been interrupted. She noted that she wouldn’t be able to do her research while buildings remained closed.

“Maybe there are more important things than experiments,” she said. Operations at Cal State L.A.’s downtown campus were not affected by the protest and closures.

It wasn’t clear what steps the university or protesters would take next to find a resolution. Eanes said Wednesday’s actions had changed how the university would proceed. However, neither she nor Hollins elaborated on what that would entail.

Advertisement

The encampment’s barrier remained covered in art and words and flags, including spray-painted messages such as, “The time to escalate is now!” and “CSU stop funding genocide.”

The group has been there for about 40 days, Hollins said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of those involved Wednesday night or staying at the encampment were Cal State L.A. students, Hollins said. But the spokesperson noted that the group who barricaded the student services building was significantly larger than the group that had been at the encampment these last few weeks.

The university worked to provide space for peaceful, nonviolent protest, Hollins said.

“Unfortunately, this action went in a different direction,” they said.

Tensions have escalated and arrests have been made as protesters continue to stake out areas on the campuses of many California universities, including UCLA, USC and Cal Poly Humboldt.

May 1, 2024

A police officer stands watch outside the student services building at Cal State Los Angeles.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Advertisement
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news
news