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More than 600 UCLA faculty, staff demand chancellor's resignation over protest arrests

More than 600 UCLA faculty, staff demand chancellor's resignation over protest arrests
More than 600 UCLA faculty, staff demand chancellor's resignation over protest arrests 02:33

In the wake of mass protest arrests at UCLA, more than 600 faculty and staff members are calling for the resignation of Chancellor Gene Block over the university's response to the student demonstrations — one they describe as infringing on freedom of speech as well as unnecessarily heavy-handed in its involvement of law enforcement.

Professors, lecturers, doctoral students and other staff members from all 10 University of California campuses have signed the petition calling for Block's immediate resignation as well as the dropping of all legal charges against protesters who are students, faculty or staff and the release of a financial report within 30 days that discloses UCLA's investments. The petition also calls on the university to divest from all military weapons production companies, a key demand of pro-Palestinian protesters nationwide. 

UCLA faculty members at a protest calling for Chancellor Gene Block's resignation.

"We will not stand by as our students are assaulted and silenced," reads the statement signed by hundreds of UC staff.

Among them are 830 scholars and instructors in fields as varied as medicine, law, education, art history, political science and theater — including 604 members of UCLA. Those were the numbers as of 11 a.m. Thursday as signatures continued to float in.

On April 30, an encampment at the UCLA campus set up in support of Palestinians in the Gaza war had attracted hundreds of demonstrators as well as counter-protesters. It mirrored demonstrations seen at colleges around the country such as Columbia University, where NYPD officers also responded after demonstrators camped out for days.

That night, fireworks were thrown at the encampment as violent clashes broke out between opposing groups of protesters, some getting pepper-sprayed amid the chaos. The violence drew the attention of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Mayor Karen Bass, who described the events of the evening as "absolutely abhorrent and inexcusable."

Protesters at UCLA remain the morning after hundreds were arrested at the campus.

The following day, local authorities declared the demonstrations an "unlawful assembly." Police officers in riot gear used flashbang grenades to clear out the encampment and arrested more than 200 people.

The university said it would discipline any remaining students and faculty, possibly leading to expulsion or termination.

During a protest at the school Thursday, UCLA faculty members from 10 different departments spoke before reporters and supporters, outlining their grievances to the university's response to the protests, particularly the decision to call in police, calling it an infringement on the right to free speech and criticized it as a failure to protect students.

"Many students and faculty were left on the ground bleeding, gassed or concussed while private security personnel and LAPD riot police stood by without intervening," said Michael Cooperson, a professor of Near East Languages and Cultures.  

Block says the university's decision to call in outside law enforcement was necessary to ensure the safety of all on campus, describing the outbreak of violence on May 1 as a "horrific attack by a mob of instigators." Less than a week later, he announced that oversight and management of UCLA police and the Office of Emergency Management was being moved from the Office of the Administrative Vice Chancellor to the newly created Office of Campus Safety.  

UC President Michael V. Drake, who oversees California's entire 10-campus public university system, announced Sunday an independent investigation into "what happened at UCLA" would be led by "a respected and impartial investigator."

Police officers responding to UCLA demonstrations over the conflict in Gaza.
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