The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Attack on UCLA Protestors

May 6, 2024

On May 2nd, around 2 a.m., the UCLA encampment protesting the war in Gaza was shut down by the police.

For a week, starting from April 25th, this camp served as a gathering place for many students to protest, discuss, and share ideas. A group of students established the camp with two clear demands: “divest” and “provide full transparency” regarding UCLA’s investments. These demands were directed at the university itself because some of UCLA’s funds are invested in companies like ExxonMobil (which supplies fuel to Israel for fighter jets) and Lockheed Martin (which directly provides weapons to Israel, such as missiles for helicopters). The primary strategy was a logic of boycott.

Several hundred people attended the camp daily, mostly UCLA students but also students from other colleges.

For many student protesters, regardless of their specific political ideologies, condemning this war was the least they could do.

Various individuals actively contributed to maintaining the camp, providing medical supplies, food, and efforts to keep the area clean and safe.

The camp’s policy was to remain peaceful in the face of any provocations. However, there were many. Shortly after the camp began, some counter-protesters arrived with Israeli flags, shouting and justifying the war against Palestinians by referring to Hamas’ actions in early October. On Sunday, April 28th, around a thousand counter-protesters gathered to oppose the camp and justify the war. Despite provocations and insults from some Zionists, the camp remained calm. Nevertheless, at night, some attempted to provoke students by staying in front of the camp and prevent them from sleeping.

On Tuesday night (April 30th), violence erupted again from some counter-protesters, most of them apparently extreme right-wing Zionist militants. They wore white masks to intimidate the camp, using pepper spray, anti-bear spray, and even fireworks to attack. Several students were injured.

According to a UCLA spokesman, the university security watched but did not intervene because of the spokesman’s concerns over a repeat of January 6th, 2021, when far-right militants took weapons from security forces to attack the capitol. According to the same UCLA spokesman, the police were called at the beginning but only intervened after the violence had been ongoing for three hours.

That was the opportunity for the university leadership, the day after on May 1st, to declare that the campus was no longer safe and order the police to shut down the camp. Approximately 200 people were arrested, almost all among the people who had joined the camp to oppose the massacre in Gaza.

What’s next?

This experience can be very instructive if students take the opportunity to reflect on what it tells us about society today: the role of the police, the false neutrality of the university, and the fact that freedom of speech will be illusory as long as the country is under the control of capitalists.