Scores of pro-Palestinian protesters occupied, barricaded and vandalized a Cal State Los Angeles student services building — with several administrators inside — for almost eight hours Wednesday, before everyone eventually left by the next morning, officials said.

Hours after the situation had settled down, much of campus was eerily quiet, with classes moved online indefinitely and campus events canceled.

The building, which houses the office of Cal State L.A. President Berenecea Johnson Eanes and is not far from where students established a pro-Palestinian encampment in early May, was deemed a crime scene by authorities Thursday, with yellow police tape cordoning off the protester-made blockades.

Tables, hard-shelled umbrellas and rope still blocked the building’s entrances and exits. Multiple windows, walls and walkways were defaced with messages in red paint, including “Free Palestine” and “Your grandkids will study your silence.”

However, no one was arrested, and all protesters left voluntarily, said Erik Frost Hollins, a spokesperson for the school.

Law enforcement officials are investigating Wednesday’s protest, Hollins said.

According to Hollins, a group of 50 to 100 people descended on the eight-story building about 4 p.m. Wednesday, when university officials told staff there to shelter in place. About 60 employees remained there for roughly two hours before security officers established a safe exit. However, about a dozen staff members — including Hollins and Eanes — voluntarily stayed behind.

“That was by choice, to manage the situation,” said Hollins, who uses they/them pronouns. That group left around midnight without issue.

Most of the group that barricaded the building left voluntarily by 1 a.m. Thursday, they said, and the remaining holdouts left after police entered and ordered a dispersal shortly after. No injuries have been reported.

Hollins said there was “significant damage” on the first four floors of the student services building, including extensive graffiti and paint, as well as damage to equipment, walls and pipes. They said the majority of the upper floors, where the president’s office is located, was not affected.

The university did not provide an estimate for the cost of the damage.

“The unfortunate thing about this is these are student-facing services ... so things like financial aid and advising (are affected),” Hollins said. “So we are doing an assessment of how severe the damage is and then how long it will take to get those services back online.”

With in-person classes and events canceled, the East L.A. campus was almost deserted following the chaos from just hours earlier.

“We have secured all buildings on campus, and I think we have committed to staying remote as long as we need to, to actually be sure that this is fully resolved,” Hollins said.

The main pro-Palestinian encampment, however, remained on campus Thursday, with its fortified barrier reaching several feet high in some spots around it, constructed of plywood, wooden pallets, tables and sheet metal. A few people entered and exited the encampment Thursday morning, one bringing coffee inside, and all declined to speak with the media.

A few others at the university Thursday weren’t aware of what had recently transpired or that events had been canceled, such as an incoming freshman who was supposed to have orientation. Another woman was there to work an event, then found out it had been canceled.

Emily Samperio, a graduate student studying materials science, knew her lab was closed Thursday, but came to take photos of the aftermath from the last night.

She hasn’t been involved with the encampment or protests, but has watched the movement grow on campus.

“I’m proud of them,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s cool to see all these schools stand together for something they believe in.”

This is the first time, though, that her work or classes have been interrupted, she said, noting that she wouldn’t be able to do her research while buildings remained closed.

“Maybe there are more important thing than experiments,” she said. 

Operations at Cal State L.A.’s downtown campus were not affected by the protest and closures.

It wasn’t clear what steps the university or protesters would take next to find a resolution.

The encampment’s barrier was covered in art and words and flags, including spray-painted messages such as “The time to escalate is now!” and “CSU stop funding genocide.”

The group has been there for about 40 days, Hollins said, and university officials have engaged in “formal and informal conversations” over the last few weeks, including inside the encampment.

“We were working toward a resolution on this,” they said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of those involved Wednesday night or staying at the encampment were Cal State L.A. students, Hollins said, but noted the group that barricaded the student services building was significantly larger than the group that has been at the encampment these last few weeks.

Hollins said the university had received an email from the CSULA Gaza Solidarity Encampment indicating that its members were staging a sit-in in the building.

The university worked to provide space for peaceful, nonviolent protest, Hollins said.

“Unfortunately, this action went in a different direction,” they said.


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