Police Clear UCSB Liberated Zone Encampment

text by News Director

25 June, 2024

Brandon Yi/KCSB News

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At 53 days, the Liberated Zone encampment at UCSB was the longest-running and last-standing UC encampment, until it was forcibly cleared by around 80 police in riot gear in the early hours of Sunday, June 23. Five demonstrators were arrested, and 40 demonstrators remained at the encampment throughout the operation, which began after 12:30 AM  and ended a little before 4 AM. There were no physical injuries reported.

As of Sunday, June 23, students in police custody at the Santa Barbara County jail were released. Lieutenant Jarrett Morris told KCSB News that demonstrators were charged with unlawful assembly by the University of California Police Department at UCSB (UCPD). They had a bail set at $2,500 but have all been released with a citation to appear in court.

The forceful decampment comes after the Liberated Zone encampment received an email earlier that day which informed them that the encampment was now “in violation of UC policies” and “an illegal trespass,” and which called on demonstrators to vacate the encampment immediately. 

The day of the operation, an encampment media liaison told us they had been notified police were mobilizing a little after 12:30 am, blocking off entrances from Highway 217, Mesa Road, and the Thunderdome. 

At 4 PM on Friday, June 21, administrators had reportedly given the encampment until Monday, June 24 at 5 PM to make a decision on ending the encampment. Hours later at 9:30 PM, the Liberated Zone alleges, administrators told them that they had to decamp and offer a contingency plan by 5 PM on Saturday, June 22 or have police forcibly remove the encampment. The Liberated Zone said this deadline change, quote, “undermines the trust and good faith we have tried to maintain,” end quote. 

The Liberated Zone had responded stating they would voluntarily  “consolidate the camp under certain conditions,” to which they received an email back from UC Legal Senior Counsel Nancy G. Hamill, stating their presence on the lawn was “illegal” and asking them to immediately decamp. 

“Given that notification, as well as further communication from trusted sources, we figured that a police raid was potentially going to happen tonight or tomorrow,” an encampment media liaison told KCSB News.

The encampment took to Instagram to call on community members to mobilize, due to a subsequent expectation of police presence. 

The encampment media liaison said they were preparing by “getting all of our folks here to witness what could happen — obviously, people’s risks and tactics are different depending on the individual. As it stands, we are willing to follow through with the dispersal order if a dispersal notice is given.”

Joyce Chi/KCSB News

Just past midnight, police officers from departments including the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, Santa Maria, and San Luis Obispo arrived to support UCPD’s request for “mutual aid.” Officers wielded riot gear, batons, non-lethal rifles, rope, and zip-ties, materialized on campus and surrounded two entrances of the encampment, leaving the west side open for students to evacuate. Beginning at 1:20 AM, they began issuing a 20 minute warning that students in the encampment must decamp or be subject to arrest and expulsion, among other sanctions. 

After around 20 minutes, at 1:40 AM, police began moving forward every few minutes in increments. Demonstrators continued to chant and verbally protest their presence. As officers moved forward in a line, they would tell students to move back, while taking down tents, signs, equipment, and other structures they moved past. 

    As officers moved into the main lawn of the encampment, they also dismantled the main kitchen and pantry of the encampment. 

      Some demonstrators did not move even as officers moved in. One officer was seen aiming a non-lethal weapon at a demonstrator and warning them to move back. 

      Demonstrators were warned if they did not move back, they would be hit.

      Mario Fuentes-Godinez/KCSB News

      At 2:10 AM, police arrested a demonstrator and led them away with their hands zip-tied. Soon afterwards, two other demonstrators who refused to move were also arrested, alongside another who was reportedly a Chumash community member. The final arrest was after the police had moved through the majority of the encampment, when, for unclear reasons, officers charged forward and detained another protester. 

            After the police had moved all the way through and maintained a line blocking entrance to the encampment, two trucks with storage units pulled in and the encampment began to get cleared up while demonstrators continued to protest. 

              A little before 4:00 am, the remaining 20 or so demonstrators left. “After consulting with everyone, I don’t see why we’re wasting our f–king time while they’re paid to do absolutely f–king nothing. So I say we all go home,” said one protestor.

                The pro-Palestinian Liberated Zone encampment was set up on May 1st to call for things like divestment from weapons manufacturers, ending relations with Israeli universities, and statements from UCSB administrators acknowledging the violence in Gaza as a genocide. 

                  The encampment was reportedly in talks about demands with Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn, Chief Financial Officer Chuck Haines, and Executive Director for Academic Affairs Christian Villaseñor earlier last week — but negotiations had reportedly not occurred. 

                  KCSB News has reached out to UCSB administrators for comment on the police presence and its subsequent student arrests, and received a written statement from UCSB Spokesperson Kiki Reyes, who said that “several individuals who remained at the site on Sunday morning and were given multiple warnings to leave the area before and during the clearing of the tents.” She went on to write that while “most of the individuals complied with the warnings, five individuals declined to disperse and were taken into police custody,” with the university now resuming normal operations. 

                  In a press release from the encampment posted on their Instagram, they described the events of the operation and stated police “capitalized on intimidation tactics and threats of violence to force protestors out of the camp.” The press release went on to say that organizers of the UCSB Liberated Zone “remain committed in pressuring the university to divest from militarism, war, and the genocidal violence resulting in the murder of nearly 40,000 Palestinians.”

                  In a livestream by the encampment, it was incorrectly stated that KCSB News reporters were taken into police custody. No KCSB News reporters were arrested during this operation. 

                  The lawn where the encampment used to sit is now empty. It is unclear whether demonstrators intend to set up another. 

                  This story is ongoing. KCSB’s Joyce Chi, Brandon Yi and Mario Fuentes-Godinez contributed to this reporting. 

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