Pro-Palestinian protesters cleared from Cal State, L.A., building after barricading themselves in with staff still inside

Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register/AP

Pro-Palestinian protesters who entered and barricaded themselves in a building at California State University, Los Angeles, on Wednesday cleared out by early Thursday, a spokesperson for the school told CNN.

Most protesters left the Student Services Building of their own accord around 1:15 a.m. local time and returned to an unauthorized encampment on campus. No arrests were made, university spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins said.

A small group remained inside but the university’s Department of Public Safety officers entered the building and asked them to leave, and they complied, Hollins said.

University President Berenecea Johnson Eanes, whose office is in the building, according to the university’s website, was among dozens of employees who remained inside during the takeover. She and other administrators were safely escorted out after midnight Thursday, Hollins said.

The group of 50 to 100 protesters barricaded the exits on the first floor on Wednesday and blocked off areas around the building, Hollins told the Los Angeles Times. The university asked employees on the upper floors to shelter in place, Hollins said.

Video from CNN affiliate KABC showed protesters moving furniture on the first floor of the building with signs on windows and plywood spray-painted with the messages, “The time to escalate is now!” and “CSU stop funding genocide.”

Demonstrators “don’t want folks inside the building,” a protester told KABC, saying, “This is not a hostage situation.” The university called the Los Angeles Police Department to assist, CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS reported.

“Significant” damage including broken glass and graffiti was observed on the interior and exterior of the building, primarily the first four floors, according to Hollins.

All classes and operations at the university’s main campus will be held remotely until further notice, according to a message posted on its website.

“Please do not come to main campus,” the Protest Action Alert reads. Meanwhile, operations on Cal State’s downtown campus will remain normal, the alert said.

An assessment will be done to determine the overall cost of the damage and when the building, which houses services like financial aid and student support, will reopen.

“It will take time to recover and to provide these services in the same way that we were able to before, and that’s deeply unfortunate,” Hollins said.

On Thursday, Eanes ordered the encampment that has been on the campus for the past 40 days to be dismantled following what she referred to in a statement as “violence and destruction” that unfolded Wednesday night, according to the university.

“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,” the university’s president said. “The Encampment has crossed a line. Those in the Encampment must leave.”

Eanes did not give a timeline of when the encampment will be dismantled or if the university would request assistance from law enforcement.

Three employees and a student were reportedly assaulted during the protest – one person was assaulted as the protesters entered the university building, another as they were leaving, one was “accosted on a walkway” and another who was looking at damage, said Eanes, who did not say if they were injured.

The demonstrations escalated due to frustration with university officials who sent a message regarding encampments, which “reiterated something … said 20 days ago,” a protester told KABC.

The protesters’ actions at Cal State, Los Angeles, come as some American campuses continue to be convulsed by pro-Palestinian demonstrations denouncing Israel’s handling of its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Protests late this spring gripped schools across the country, but they have persisted in some places, including at UCLA – some 20 miles west of Cal State, Los Angeles – where 27 people were arrested Monday after setting up multiple pro-Palestinian encampments that police said were unlawful.

Additionally, at least six University of California Police Department personnel and other safety officers were injured in confrontations with the protesters, including one person with a head injury, Rick Braziel, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for campus safety, said in a news release Tuesday.

Of those arrested at UCLA, 18 were students, and two were faculty, police said. Another was a former student, while the rest were not affiliated with the university.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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