Clashes broke out early Wednesday at the the pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA,  hours after UCLA on Tuesday said the camp "is unlawful and violates university policy" and warning that students who did not leave would face possible suspension or expulsion.

Just before midnight, a large group of counter-demonstrators, wearing black outfits and white masks, arrived on campus and tried to tear down the barricades surrounding the encampment. Campers, some holding lumber, rallied to defend the encampment's perimeter. Campus police were not intervening.

Videos showed fireworks being set off and at least one case being thrown into the camp an

The violence is the worst on campus since counter-protesters, who support Israel, set up a dueling area near where the Gaza war protesters were camping. After midnight, some tried to get into the camp, and the pro-Palestinian side used pepper spray to defense themselves.

Some security guards were observing the clashes but did not move into stop them.

The Westwood campus became the first in the University of California system to move against an encampment. Others have been set up at UC campuses at Berkeley,  Riverside and Irvine along with colleges and universities across the nation. In the biggest wave of campus protests since the 1960s, scores of students, faculty members and staffers are demanding an end to Israel's actions in Gaza and divestment from firms that sell weapons or services to the country.

UC has generally taken a lighter touch in handling protests than USC, Columbia and other campuses that have called in police, who have arrested hundreds of students.

The crackdown came on the same day that the House committee investigating antisemitism announced UCLA Chancellor Gene Block would appear to testify about his campus actions to stop bias and harassment against Jewish students. The May 23 hearing is also set to include the presidents of Yale and the University of Michigan. The hearings have derailed the careers of the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. Block has already announced he is stepping down as chancellor on July 31.

In a statement Tuesday, UC President Michael V. Drake said he "fully" supported UCLA's action. UC must be "as flexible as it can" in matters of free speech, he said, but must act in cases where student learning and expression are blocked, university functions disrupted and safety threatened.

"The University of California campuses will work with students, faculty and staff to make space available and do all we can to protect these protests and demonstrations," he said. "But disruptive unlawful protests that violate the rights of our fellow citizens are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated."

He did not specify what behavior at UCLA he found unacceptable.

On Friday, the UC Board of Regents has scheduled a closed-door meeting to discuss the student protests.

UC guidance — developed after widespread furor involving a 2011 incident at UC Davis, where police pepper-sprayed students who were peacefully protesting social and economic inequality during the Occupy movement — has led campuses to use a flexible approach in allowing protests as long as they are peaceful and don't impede campus operations, learning or teaching. Police action should be a last resort, the guidance says.

But Block said Tuesday that, while many demonstrators have been peaceful, others have used tactics that have "frankly been shocking and shameful."

"We have seen instances of violence completely at odds with our values as an institution dedicated to respect and mutual understanding," Block said in a message to the campus community. "In other cases, students on their way to class have been physically blocked from accessing parts of the campus.

" UCLA supports peaceful protest, but not activism that harms our ability to carry out our academic mission and makes people in our community feel bullied, threatened and afraid," he wrote. He added that the incidents had put many on campus, "especially our Jewish students," in a state of anxiety and fear.

High levels of fear also have been reported by pro-Palestinian students, which Block did not mention — an omission that outraged some campus members.

"It is quite shocking and demoralizing that the chancellor notes only the antisemitism faced by Jewish students when in fact there has been a significant number of incidents of racism and violence against Palestinians, Muslims and in fact anyone considered a supporter of Palestinian rights," said Sherene Razack, a professor of gender studies.

The "Palestinian Solidarity Encampment," which was set up Thursday, said in a statement that "Zionist aggressors," most of them not UCLA students, had been "incessantly verbally and physically harassing us, violently trying to storm the camp, and threatening us with weapons." But campus security did nothing to protect them, the statement said.

The group decried UCLA's move to end the encampment as a "cowardly intimidation tactic" and a "continuation of a long history of attempts to shut down student activism and silence pro-Palestinian voices."

Dan Gold, executive director of Hillel at UCLA, supported the university's action, saying Jewish students have been bullied, harassed and intimidated around the encampment — including at least 10 who said they were denied access to nearby walkways after encampment monitors asked them if they were Zionists. A Star of David with the words "step here" was drawn in the area, he said.

"This encampment violates a long list of university policies, and the result of not enforcing these rules that every other student and student group follows to a T is chaos and unrest — and worse, it allows for even more intense forms of hate to persist and grow," Gold said.

Block said the campus was aiming to keep all sides safe by "significantly" increasing the security presence with more law enforcement officers, safety personnel and student affairs staff. Law enforcement is investigating recent acts of violence, and barriers that demonstrators used to block access to buildings have been removed, Block said. Students involved could face suspension or expulsion.

UCLA added that it "encouraged" students to use established university procedures to find appropriate locations to gather and protest.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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