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Wilhoit’s law and campus protests


The chief pretext university presidents have used to justify the aggressive use of law enforcement against peaceful pro-Palestinian protestors has been to protect the security of people on campus. This is generally dubious at best, but at UCLA it has been revealed as a total sham [gift link]:

Late on April 30, Sean Tabibian called 911 to say police were needed urgently at the University of California at Los Angeles. “All hell had broken loose,” Tabibian recalled in an interview. Masked agitators were attacking pro-Palestinian protesters on a campus quad, video footage shows, and a team of hired security guards had retreated.

The call at 11:09 p.m. was the first of 11 that Tabibian made to police that night as the violence escalated, according to his cellphone’s call log. Other witnesses called 911 as well, records show.

“They said they were responding,” said Tabibian, a local business executive and UCLA alumnus who was near campus around the time commotion erupted at the encampment, and who said he was concerned that protesters had been discriminating against Jewish students. “They kept saying they’re responding, they’re responding.”

While a small UCLA patrol could be seen in footage briefly early on, law enforcement agencies did not move in to stop the violence until 3 hours and 34 minutes after Tabibian’s first 911 call, a Washington Post examination has found — a delay that prolonged one of the most violent altercations since pro-Palestinian protesters began setting up encampments on college campuses across the country this spring.

The examination — based on evidence including more than 200 videos, emergency radio transmissions, text messages and interviews with more than a dozen witnesses — illuminates the stakes for university and local officials as they decide if and when to call police to deal with pro-Palestinian encampments. Elsewhere police have been accused of using heavy-handed tactics, but at UCLA, where university policy discourages calling police preemptively, campus police as well as the Los Angeles Police Department and California Highway Patrol are facing scrutiny for their hands-off approach that night.

It’s not clear why police waited so long to respond. But in the hours before they took action, at least 16 people were visibly injured, the majority of them pro-Palestinian, including two protesters who could be seen with blood streaking across their faces and soaking into their clothes, videos and images show. The counterprotesters ignited at least six fireworks; struck protesters at least 20 times with wooden planks, metal poles and other objects; and punched or kicked at least eight protesters.

There have been other cases where the viewpoint discrimination has been naked — like the University of Virginia changing its ostensibly neutral place, time, and manner rules in the morning so it could clear out students whose speech the administration disapproved of a couple hours later — but “the police being brought in to protect students openly permitting violence against students whose speech they disagree with” is the classic formula. And the actions of the LAPD ultimately hang on the administration that brought them in.

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