Over 200 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at UCLA

Police officers arresting pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in Los Angeles, California, the United States. [Xinhua]

Over 200 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested Thursday morning as police moved to dismantle an encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), one of the top public universities in the United States, U.S. media reported.

The number of protesters at UCLA arrested by California Highway Patrol officers now stood at 209, two law enforcement sources apprised of the ongoing operation to clear the campus told NBC News.

The California Highway Patrol was quoted as saying earlier in the day that at least 132 people were arrested during the operation.

UCLA students and staff were among more than 200 people arrested, reported Los Angeles Times, the biggest newspaper on the U.S. West Coast.

Hours before dawn, California Highway Patrol officers in riot gear broke through the encampment which was set up by protesters last week in support of Palestinians amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. Officers from multiple agencies, including the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department, took part in the massive police operation on the university's campus.

Police launched flares that arced over the encampment, igniting with piercing blasts, and smoke filled the air from fire extinguishers that demonstrators sprayed at police, reported Los Angeles Times, adding that at least one officer was seen on video shooting rubber bullets into the crowd.

UCLA declared the encampment "unlawful" on Tuesday and warned that protesters must leave the area. The university cancelled all classes for Wednesday after a night of violent clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel counter-protesters on campus.

Police continued to arrest encampment protesters into early Thursday morning, with many ticketed for trespassing and loaded onto buses for further processing, reported Daily Bruin, the university's student newspaper.

Some arrested protesters appeared to be loaded into buses marked as Los Angeles County Sheriff prisoner transport, said the report, adding that it was not immediately clear what, if any, charges or processing detainees might face next.

Several protesters, who identified themselves as UCLA students, shared details of their experience with local KABC television station after their release.

"We've been trying our best to stay peaceful as an encampment, but at the end of the day, we knew the cops would have this type of response, that the school would have this type of response," a student, who only identified herself as Illahe, told the news outlet, adding that "We're not done ... We're not going to let people forget what happened, what's happening ... in Gaza."

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a post on social media platform X that "Every student deserves to be safe and live peacefully on their campus. Harassment, vandalism and violence have no place at UCLA or anywhere in our city."

"My office will continue to coordinate closely with local and state law enforcement, area universities and community leaders to keep campuses safe and peaceful," she noted.

Since the arrest of more than 100 student protesters last month at Columbia University in New York, pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been spreading at colleges and universities across the United States.

At least 2,000 protesters have been arrested in crackdowns on pro-Palestinian protests and encampments on campuses across the country over the last two weeks, according to the latest New York Times tally.