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UCLA Students Seek Court Order on Pro-Palestinian Encampments

UCLA Students Seek Court Order on Pro-Palestinian Encampments

UCLA students protest the Israel-Hamas conflict, on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles on April 25, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

City News Service
City News Service

6/26/2024

Updated: 6/26/2024

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LOS ANGELES—Three Jewish students who sued UCLA for allegedly allowing “antisemitic activists” to set up an encampment that stopped the students from attending classes are asking a judge to ban such activities before students arrive on campus for the fall semester in August.
In the initial Los Angeles federal court complaint filed June 5, two law students and an undergraduate student contend that UCLA allowed a group of students and outsiders to set up the encampment, the participants of which stopped Jewish students and faculty from accessing the heart of campus.
The plaintiffs contend that the pro-Palestinian zones broke civil rights laws and discriminated against the university’s Jewish students. In papers filed Monday, the plaintiffs are asking for a court order preventing UCLA from allowing the encampments in the future.
Mary Osako, UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications, did not immediately respond to the specific allegations contained in the lawsuit.
“UCLA remains committed to supporting the safety and well-being of the entire Bruin community and we will respond to this filing in due course,” she said in a statement June 25.
The plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction against the encampments—which is expected to be heard in downtown Los Angeles on July 22 before U.S. District Judge Mark Scarsi—discusses what it describes as “UCLA’s ongoing and egregious failure to provide Jewish students with equal access and equal treatment on its campus.”
The Jewish students argue that their education is suffering “because of this ongoing discrimination. Plaintiffs therefore need relief from this court by August ... so they can safely return to campus for 2024-2025 classes.”
In the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, pro-Palestinian demonstrations emerged on college campuses nationwide. By allowing the encampment on the Westwood campus, UCLA allegedly caused Jewish students and faculty to be barred from accessing parts of the campus “unless they agreed to disavow Israel’s right to exist,” according to the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
“No student should have to fear for their safety or pass a religious test to walk freely at a public university,” said Mark Rienzi, president of the Becket law firm and an attorney for the students. “UCLA’s behavior on this issue has been shameful, and the students need a court order to allow them to return to campus safely this fall.”
According to the plaintiffs, the activists—many of them masked—used checkpoints, issued wrist bands, built barriers, and often locked arms to prevent Jewish students from passing through.
For a week, the lawsuit contends, UCLA’s administration was aware of these practices and chose to let them persist. The suit alleges that rather than clearing the encampment, UCLA instructed security staff to discourage unapproved students from attempting to cross through the areas blocked by the activists.
“If masked agitators had excluded any other marginalized group at UCLA, Gov. Gavin Newsom rightly would have sent in the National Guard immediately,” Mr. Rienzi said. “But UCLA instead caved to the antisemitic activists and allowed its Jewish students to be segregated from the heart of their own campus. That is a profound and illegal failure of leadership.”
Mr. Rienzi, whose firm filed the 34-page motion for an injunction, alleges that activists within the pro-Palestinian encampment targeted Jewish students.
Plaintiff Yitzchok Frankel, a law student and father of four, claims he faced antisemitic harassment and was forced to abandon his regular routes through campus because of the so-called Jewish “exclusion zone,” the lawsuit states.
Joshua Ghayoum, a sophomore and history major, says he was repeatedly blocked from accessing the library and other public spaces. Mr. Ghayoum alleges he heard chants at the encampment including “death to Jews,” according to the suit.
The third plaintiff, law student Eden Shemuelian, alleges her final exam studies were severely compromised when she was forced to walk around the encampment and face antisemitic chants and signs to access the law school’s library.
“It’s appalling that an elite American university would actively support and encourage masked mobs of antisemites,” Mr. Rienzi said. “UCLA’s Jewish community needs to know that they'll be safe on campus before the start of the fall semester.”
Police ultimately dismantled the UCLA encampment in an overnight operation that saw more than 200 people arrested.
Supporters of the demonstrators have accused officials of ignoring a violent attack on the encampment by counterprotesters on April 30, while being quick to arrest those sympathetic to the Palestinians.
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