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Gaza protests: US university leaders grilled in Congress

Gaza protests: US university leaders grilled in Congress

The spotlight was on UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, whose university saw large protests and a camp that was attacked by counterprotesters.

Police and school officials were slow to respond to violence and were heavily criticised for their response last month.

On Wednesday, the police chief at UCLA was temporarily removed and reassigned “pending an examination of our security processes”, the university said.

In his opening remarks, Mr Block said the protesters had “tested the limits” of the UCLA administration’s de-escalation strategy. He said his university strove to prevent using law enforcement to make arrests on campus “unless it is absolutely necessary to protect the physical safety of the community”.

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a Democrat, accused Mr Block of not protecting pro-Palestinian students by allowing counter-protesters to attack for hours.

Meanwhile, photos and videos showed a new small camp being built outside Kerckhoff Hall at UCLA on Thursday.

Protesters used tables, metal fences, and wooden boards to block off walkways, while security guards watched over them, according to CBS, the BBC’s US partner.

UCLA Vice Chancellor for Strategic Communications told BBC News that the administration was “aware of the demonstration activity on the Kerckhoff patio”.

“Our safety personnel are on site and actively monitoring the situation.”

Some classes switched to remote learning due to the new protest, and Los Angeles police issued a citywide tactical alert, according to KTLA-TV.

The alerts are used to re-distribute on-duty police officers and prepare for a possible escalation that would trigger an emergency.

Previous hearings by the committee have resulted in two Ivy League university heads stepping down, though Thursday’s hearing had tense moments it was much less contentious than the previous committee hearings.

The appearance of Columbia University’s president Dr Nemat Shafik at an April congressional hearing emboldened students on campus and led to them pitching tents on a lawn, sparking a wave of protests across the US.

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