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Cal State LA president says pro-Palestinian protesters no longer welcome after building takeover

By AP | Jun 14, 2024

Pro-Palestinian student protesters barricade the entrance to the student services building while awaiting for their divestment demands of California State University, Los Angeles administration on the campus in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Keith Birmingham/The Orange County Register via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The president of California State University, Los Angeles, said demonstrators protesting Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza are no longer welcome on campus after some of them occupied and trashed a building while she was inside.

The takeover ended early Thursday without arrests, a school spokesperson said.

Protesters barricaded the multistory Student Services Building at 4 p.m. Wednesday with university President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and dozens of other employees inside, said spokesperson Erik Frost Hollins.

Most of the 58 employees got out by 6 p.m. except for a group of administrators who remained until after midnight to manage the situation. The group included Eanes, but Frost Hollins would not say whether the president interacted with the protesters.

"That falls under tactics that we are not discussing at this point," the spokesperson said.

Most of the protesters left the building around 1:15 a.m. Thursday and returned to an encampment on the campus. A few remaining protesters left when university police ordered them out, Frost Hollins said.

In a statement Thursday afternoon to the school community, Eanes said she has engaged with protesters who have occupied the campus encampment for some 40 days.

"So long as the encampment remained non-violent, I was committed that the university would continue to talk," the president wrote. But in the wake of destruction and theft that occurred Wednesday, a line was crossed and "those in the encampment must leave."

"I am saddened, and I am angry," Eanes said. "Campus community: 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. I cannot and would not protect anyone who is directly identified as having participated in last night's illegal activities from being held accountable."

There were no arrests and no injuries were reported, but "assaults" were reported by three employees and one student, according to Eanes. Officials said those were a law enforcement matter.

The university, meanwhile, announced that all main campus classes and operations would be remote until further notice.

Images from the scene showed graffiti on the building, furniture blocking doorways and overturned golf carts, picnic tables and umbrellas barricading the plaza out front.

"We don't have an exact appraisal on it but there was damage to the exterior, the interior, equipment, materials, structure -- it was significant damage," Frost Hollins said.

The CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment, a group that has camped near the campus gym for about 40 days, sent an email indicating that members were staging a sit-in in the building, Hollins said.