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What I saw on the UCLA campus

3 min read

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon on the campus of UCLA. The Gaza solidarity encampment has been attracting news coverage and widespread claims of anti-Jewish violence, so I wanted to see for myself. The following is a very quick summary of what I saw.

The encampment is not very disruptive.

It occupies a tiny part of UCLA's massive campus. Though it's been there for days, I saw a lot of students discovering it for the first time and asking organizers "what's going on?" It's wild that they would be so disconnected from the news, but it also shows how little impact the camp has on student life.

The main disruption was that students have to walk around the encampment (maybe 5 extra minutes) to go from one side to the other. The main path that is closed is actually closed by campus security, not protestors. The camp is set on a lawn, which is the main area students cannot access now. From what I saw, the buildings, classes, and libraries are all accessible from other sides and entrances.

I took this photo just outside the encampment. Very peaceful, students chilling, living their student lives.

Photo of a grassy hill with people laying

The protestors are very well organized

The encampment had a medic tents, media liaisons, security people trained in deescalation, etc. No smoking, drinking, drugs was allowed. People needed to have someone inside vouch for them before they are let in.

Anyone who's been at an occupation or a large protest before, especially very contentious ones, knows about the safety risks of counter protestors sneaking in to provoke and inflame. So the vetting process they had put in place seemed reasonable.

The pro-Israel counter protest was ridiculous

The counter-protest was just across from the encampment, but there was nobody there, just one massive screen broadcasting images of October 7th.

I know that at times, protesters come to fill the area around the screen, but I'm guessing there aren't enough pro-Israel students to set up a permanent encampment or not enough who actually care enough to go through the trouble.

There wasn't a single pro-Israel person in the area, just someone watching over the screen.

Very large screen showing gruesome images with the text "this is oct 7", surrounded by barriers and nobody around
Large screen seen from behind, surrounded by many barriers and nobody around

A lot of people aren't let into the encampment

There wasn't anyone inside who knew me and could vouch for me, so despite my keffiyeh I wasn't allowed into the camp. My ego was slightly bruised but nothing bad. I wasn't alone: maybe 50% of people who were trying to go in couldn't because they didn't have someone to vouch for them. This included people with keffiyehs and Palestinian flags, students and outsiders like me.

I saw a few people who were clearly pro-Israel (one wearing a Golda Meir t-shirt, the others just saying "it is my right as a student to access all parts of the campus") trying to get in. They tried to argue their way in for a few minutes and left. But I could see how people who are more insistent and provocative could easily create videos for social media making it seem like they are being turned back because they are Jewish. I was just there for a few hours, but from what I saw it seems like nonsense.


Without claiming to give a holistic picture of the protest movement or even of the situation at UCLA, what I experienced was a very peaceful, well organized, and reasonable protest.

The aftermath

As I exited the campus and waited for the bus (still wearing a keffiyeh), a car with 3 young men, perhaps students, drove by me and insulted me. They drove around the block just to pass me again, again shouting threatening insults through the window.

Just a few hours after I left, a pro-Israel mob violently attacked the encampment. They tried to take the camp apart, beat up people, and threw tear gas and fireworks inside the encampment.