Campus Chaos

News & Politics

There’s a manhunt underway in Los Angeles, one in which the police are bringing to bear all the very latest in technology in pursuit of their quarry. If you suppose it’s a serial killer they’re after, or perhaps members of the many robbery and burglary rings recently plaguing Southern California, you haven’t been paying attention to the news.

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In a front-page story on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times described the operation as “perhaps the biggest case in the history of the UCLA Police Department,” which may be a modest benchmark, but even so, it seems an inordinate amount of time and resources are about to be devoted to the pursuit of people guilty of, with the possibility of an exception or two, no more than misdemeanors. Their crime? They had the audacity to take action against the Hamas Admiration Society’s encampment on the UCLA campus last week.

To recap: As has occurred on many college campuses across the country, often at schools once regarded (but perhaps no longer) as “elite,” UCLA welcomed the establishment of an “anti-Zionist” encampment on the quad outside two of the school’s oldest and most iconic buildings, Royce Hall and Powell Library.

The first tents went up on April 25, and day by day the encampment grew as it attracted a mixture of UCLA students and various drifters from across Southern California, people drawn to the prospect of stirring up trouble – with little fear of adverse consequences – in the name of a cause they perceived as worthy while possessing little if any actual knowledge about the underlying issues. Four years ago, during the Summer of George Floyd, many of these same people were sporting BLM T-shirts and Covid masks, but today they’ve come to adopt this season’s fashion trend among the protest set, the keffiyeh. (Oddly, they’re reluctant to give up the Covid masks.)

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In and around the UCLA encampment one could hear the anti-Israel tropes we have come to expect in these settings, the manifestly false yet all too familiar chants about Israeli “apartheid” and “genocide” against the Palestinians, and of course the incessant bleating of “From the river to the sea,” etc., this despite the fact that for most of these bleaters, a request to name the river or the sea would be met with a dull, blank stare.

The Hamasniks remained unmolested by the police or UCLA administrators for several days and, emboldened by this lack of resolve by legitimate authorities, they began emulating their ideological kinsmen of the present-day Middle East and 1930s Germany, taking it upon themselves to enforce limits on the movement of Jewish students in the vicinity of their little Gazaville. As can be heard in this report from the local NBC affiliate, the mother of a Jewish student phoned campus police and plaintively asked them to help her son, who had been prevented from entering Powell Library by keffiyeh-wearing goons. Pity the unfortunate dispatcher to whom it fell the duty to inform the mother that the police were under orders not to intervene.

History has shown, time and again, that in the absence of legitimate authority conflicts among competing factions become matters of might making right. History has also shown that Jews will no longer allow themselves to be intimidated by thugs, whether they be wearing keffiyehs or brown shirts. So, as the UCLA police and administrators should have expected but did not, late in the evening of April 30 a group of people opposed to the encampment arrived on campus and began efforts to dismantle the barricades surrounding it.

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It wasn’t until about three hours later that a sufficient number of officers from the UCLA police, the LAPD, the Santa Monica and Beverly Hills police departments, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, and the California Highway Patrol could be assembled and deployed to restore order, by which time many of the so-called counter-protesters had departed.

Now the UCLA police, aroused from their torpor, and after having dismantled the encampment, have launched their high-tech endeavor to identify and arrest those responsible for trying to do what the police themselves should have done at the first sign of an attempt to occupy the quad.

“UCLA detectives,” reports the Los Angeles Times, “are now scanning hundreds of images in an attempt to identify the attackers. They intend to use technology that captures facial images and compares them to other photos on the internet and social media to put names to faces, according to law enforcement sources.” The story goes on to cite a statement from UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who said the school’s police will work with the LAPD, the L.A. County district attorney, and perhaps the FBI to identify and prosecute the assailants “to the fullest extent of the law.”

Rather like locking the barn door after the horse has escaped.

But it’s even worse than that. Assuming this intensive effort achieves the goal of identifying the counter-protesters, how strong is the legal case against them? Consider: If members of Group A illegally set up barricades on public property, how can it be said that members of Group B are not within their rights to remove them? And if members of Groups A and B then clash over the placement of the barricades, unless there are weapons involved or other clear evidence of disproportionate force, the clash would ordinarily be labeled as “mutual combat” and undeserving of criminal sanction on either side.

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Fifteen people were reportedly injured in the fighting, only one of whom required hospitalization. As the degree of injury ordinarily distinguishes a felony battery from a misdemeanor, we are left with but a single potential felony victim. And for this we are to mobilize the LAPD and even the FBI? Absurd.

Chancellor Block today finds himself in dubious competition with the likes of Columbia University’s president Minouche Shafik for the title of Invertebrate of the Year. Like Shafik, his failure to take action when the first tent appeared on the quad only invited further transgressions by people who have been instructed on how to push the line and, like those they so admire in Gaza, how to cry foul when someone pushes back.

As the school year ends and attention shifts away from college campuses, the Hamasniks will search for new venues in which to harass Jews and otherwise disrupt the lives of their fellow citizens. They’ll refine their tactics in New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere through June, and in July they’ll reassemble at the Republican Convention in Milwaukee. But even that will merely be a warmup for the Big Show at the Democratic Convention a month later in Chicago.

It will be a summer they’ll be writing songs about.

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