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Pomona College protest camp dismantled; Demonstration takes place at Los Angeles graduation – Daily Bulletin

Los Angeles police confront pro-Palestinian protesters outside the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 12, 2024. Pomona College moved its graduation to the site after a pro-Palestinian encampment at the original graduation site on campus. Protesters are urging the university to cut financial ties with Israel and companies that support its actions in Gaza. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)

An encampment that took over the graduation stage at Pomona College appeared abandoned and in the process of being dismantled on Sunday, May 12, hours before protesters gathered outside the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for the university’s relocated graduation ceremony. university.

Students boarded buses bound for the Shrine after the university changed the graduation location on Friday, May 10, five days after protesters began camping out on the graduation stage.

By late afternoon, about 100 protesters were in front of the Shrine, chanting slogans such as “We will not stop, we will not rest” while beating buckets and drums. There was pushing and shoving as guests made their way to the venue for the 6pm ceremony.

Protesters gathered on both corners of Royal Street, shouting and waving flags and signs. At Royal Street and Jefferson Boulevard, brief jostling took place between protesters, security guards, police and ceremony guests around 5 p.m. as attendees attempted to enter the auditorium.

A woman trying to enter the auditorium was heard saying that protesters came into contact with her husband and that she had called the police, but it was unclear exactly what happened. The agents were already at the scene, but apparently not in the immediate vicinity. The woman declined to comment as she and others waited at a side entrance to the Sanctuary hoping staff would allow them entry.

Tensions between law enforcement and protesters came to a head shortly after 6 p.m., when several dozen police officers, many wearing riot helmets and carrying batons, formed a line and moved forward to keep protesters away. . Using a loudspeaker, they ordered protesters to disperse.

After a tense standoff, protesters walked down West 32nd Street, away from the Shrine, as police continued to hold the line around 7 p.m. It is not known if the protesters will try to approach the auditorium again or if they will disperse.

It is not immediately clear how many protesters were Pomona College students or how many had joined from encampments at other schools.

Speakers with megaphones led chants and unfurled red banners demanding that Pomona College get rid of what they called genocide and apartheid. Some waved Palestinian flags. Behind them, the guests at the graduation ceremony arrived at the venue.

Los Angeles police arrested a protester on suspicion of assault on a police officer after an attempt to hit an officer, according to a tweet from the department. No other arrests were made around 8 p.m. and only a small group of protesters remained in the area, according to the tweet.

Police wait on Sunday, May 13, 2024, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where the Pomona College graduation was moved.  Pro-Palestinian protesters toured the site of the graduation ceremony, which was originally planned for the campus.  (Photo by Sarah Hofmann, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
Police wait on Sunday, May 13, 2024, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, where the Pomona College graduation was moved. Pro-Palestinian protesters toured the site of the graduation ceremony, which was originally planned for the campus. (Photo by Sarah Hofmann, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Earlier on Sunday at noon, a line of charter buses waited for soon-to-be graduates at First Street and College Avenue to transport them to Los Angeles.

A handful of students who approached the bus stop on Sunday declined to comment on the events of the past week.

As campus security kept a close eye on the procession, families took last-minute photos in front of the Pomona College entrance sign before dismissing the buses.

In an online statement Friday, Pomona College officials apologized for the “inconvenience” associated with the commencement changes.

“We are deeply grateful for our community’s patience in this extraordinary situation and look forward to honoring our graduates on Sunday,” the university said in the statement. “These changes were made to ensure that the class of 2024 can graduate with their loved ones in attendance.”

Spokespeople for Pomona College could not be reached Sunday.

In addition to changing venues, the university requires tickets to enter the Shrine Auditorium. Previously, when the graduation ceremony took place on campus, the event had to be open to the public.

Students at the pro-Palestinian camp that began on May 6 had pledged to remain on campus until the university met their demands to stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its Gaza offensive after Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7. .

The protest is part of a nationwide student movement that has disrupted activities on campuses across the country and led to thousands of arrests, including 20 arrests at Pomona College in April after students left a camp to occupy a building. administrative.

On Thursday, May 9, protesters expanded their encampment, extending it from Marston Quadrangle to the steps of Bridges Auditorium. The next day, university officials moved the graduation ceremony and some other activities originally planned to the Quad.

In a social media post by Pomona Divest from Apartheid, the group called on other pro-Palestinian protesters to support disrupting Pomona’s graduation on Sunday.

“So-Cal closes it for Palestine,” the post said. “There is no graduation as usual anywhere.”

At 1:15 pm on Sunday, the Pomona group posted on their Instagram that the students had decided to leave the camp and concentrate their efforts on a presence at the Shrine.

At 2 p.m., what appeared to be campus officials entered the camp and began searching the area. Claremont police officers were also present and blocked off a portion of College Avenue where Marston Quad is visible.

Tents, blankets and other supplies were packed in the middle of the camp area, beyond tarps set up to provide privacy. Campus officials were heard saying that the message “We’ll be back” was spray painted on the grass next to supplies.

Around 2:30 p.m., officials began dismantling what remained of the camp. Shortly before 4 p.m., a large trash container was dragged to the site and those cleaning up the camp began throwing materials inside.

In a statement, protest organizers said they “will not return to Pomona College today” and would instead focus their efforts on activities at the Shrine. It was unclear if or when protesters would return.

At the Los Angeles graduation, one graduate said he was escorted out of the ceremony by security guards before crossing the stage.

Marcello Ursic, who was wearing a keffiyeh over his robe, said he took photographs, security yelled at him and called him an “agitator.”

“I was standing inside, looked around, took a photo; I guess they didn’t want me to take a photo,” he said while sitting outside the auditorium.

Ursic said he was taken “to a back room.”

The three photographs Ursic took appear to show a door leading from the building to the attached parking lot, Dean Avis Hinkson and another person speaking with security personnel, and a padlocked exit door.

Pomona College officials could not immediately be reached Sunday night to explain why the student was expelled.

Staff writer Hunter Lee contributed to this report.