Federal Probe Launched: MPAC Lodged Complaint on Behalf of UCLA Students Allegedly Assaulted by LAPD

05/16/24 Reposted from medium.com

The complaint on behalf of students attacked by counterprotesters and police sparked an official investigation under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Earlier this month, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) filed a complaint on behalf of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) students who were reportedly attacked by the Los Angeles Police (LAPD) while setting up an encampment on the campus in protest of violence against Palestinians.

The statement called on Education Secretary Cardona and Assistant Secretary Lhamon at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate the troubling attacks on pro-Palestinian student protestors at UCLA. This request sparked an official investigation under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“The selective use of police brutality as a means to suppress students exercising their rights to protest and free speech not only reinforces the negative perception that our law enforcement and government prioritize the protection of pro-Israeli voices over the inclusion of pro-Palestinian voices but also sends a clear message that challenging the status quo will be met with intimidation and fear,” reads the statement.

UCLA has experienced a tumultuous series of events during a pro-Palestinian encampment established at the campus’s core. However, just two days after its formation, UCLA deemed the encampment illegal and instructed campus occupants to vacate the area or face disciplinary action.

Subsequently, pro-Israel counterprotesters assaulted the encampment. Despite the presence of a limited number of police officers on duty, they were swiftly overwhelmed, leading to three hours of ongoing violence until authorities managed to arrive on scene with flashbangs and rubber bullets.

“We support the rights of students and all in America to peacefully protest, as a fundamental right long protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” said Christina Jump, Civil Litigation Department Head for Muslim Legal Fund (MLFA). “Peaceful protests weave through the history of our country and provide an important way for our citizens to have their voices heard. That has always been the case in our nation’s history, and that right remains today.”

MLFA’s Civil Litigation sector says it stands behind the rights of all individuals to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Legislation like Title VI explicitly requires campuses to uphold students’ equal rights, rather than penalize them for expressing opinions that may be unpopular or discomforting.

MLFA’s representation extends to students enrolled in numerous colleges and universities throughout the United States, ranging from Massachusetts to Texas to California.

The complaint included MPAC’s previously submitted pending Charge with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights on behalf of several students at Harvard. A few students who protested discovered last Friday that they were suspended for their protected activities and were instructed to vacate their dormitories the next day.

Protesters on campuses, like those at UCLA, are advocating for an end to university investments in companies believed to be involved in Israel’s war and its occupation of Palestinian territories. They are also urging the cessation of university collaborations with Israeli institutions.

Due to the force used to derail these protests, it is worth noting that the Israeli military and American police have strong ties as many US officers have been trained by Israeli officials either at home or overseas.

These trainings date back to the early 1990s, when law enforcement officers, including police officers and agents from the FBI, CIA and Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be sent to Israel through exchanges, or by attending summits within the US that were sponsored by pro-Israeli organizations.

Chris Cassel, a second-year student from Occidental College in Los Angeles, brought supplies to the encampment and recounts his experience with the police.

“At the end, it was 70 of us shoulder to shoulder and back to back facing off against the police,” Cassel said. “They’re trying to repress us, but they miscalculated and set off a national movement.”

University administrators and elected officials, including President Joe Biden, have alleged that the protests include instances of antisemitism, thereby creating an unsafe learning environment for Jewish students.

However, protest organizers at UCLA and elsewhere reject that allegation. Jewish, Arab and Muslim communities have all reported upticks in harassment and discrimination since the war in Gaza began nearly seven months ago, on October 7.

“The core of the First Amendment protects the right to say things others may not agree with — and they don’t have to agree. But disagreement cannot equate to stifling or silencing free speech.

Evictions in response to protected activity won’t lead to healthy discourse or long-term solutions. Suppression of free speech by calling in armed law enforcement to disrupt peaceful protestors won’t silence those voices, and won’t lead to solutions either.

Instead, actions like these only add to the existing problems and attempt to detract from the substance of the demonstrations themselves, by creating new violations here on our own soil. Our country is better than that. We call on campus administrators and law enforcement to do better,” said MLFA Attorney, Jump.