LOS ANGELES (CN) — Thousands of people marched through the University of California, Los Angeles, campus Thursday to commemorate the lives of people killed by police across the nation and to protest the university’s decision to allow police to use a campus stadium as a field jail for demonstrators.
Trisdan Shaw, president of the Black Graduate Student Association at UCLA, rallied the crowd that filled Royce Quad before the march kicked off by saying the names of people killed recently by police across the U.S. such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
“We understand that these deaths are just catalysts, catalysts that we feel every day,” Shaw told the crowd. “We’re here to expose this anti-blackness that we see each and every day. We don’t believe in reform. But we do believe in abolition democracy.”
Student organizers of the march demanded LA Police Chief Michel Moore be fired and that LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey be removed from office for her decisions not to criminally charge officers who kill people.
To fulfill its stated goal of providing equitable resources to black students, UCLA should fund the creation of a black student resource center on campus, student organizers said.
“Abolition is not just the dismantling of systems,” Shaw said. “Something has to grow and be built in its place.”
Alexandria Malilay, a Columbia University student living in LA, told Courthouse News she attended the march to oppose the legacy of police brutality in the country.
“I think it’s important for everyone to come together to fight against something that is unjust,” Malilay said. “I think people should not only say the names of people who lost their lives due to police brutality, we should also know their stories.”
Simone, an LA resident who didn’t share her last name, said she attended the march to provide an example to her children.
“I’m the mother of two children, two black boys, who will have to experience and have experienced racism and I want them to be part of something that stands for change,” Simone said. “It’s one thing to look at it and it’s another thing to be part of it.”
UCLA student Alexandria Davis, the outgoing president of the Afrikan Student Union who is set to graduate this week, told Courthouse News she felt a responsibility to help organize the protest.
“I can’t stand to be in a world or a university that supports police brutality,” Davis said. “These demands will continue. This fight will continue. We’re not doing this for show we’re doing this for change.”
Davis called for an independent investigation into the LAPD’s use of the UCLA Jackie Robinson Stadium as a jail and arrest processing site.
“I think it’s an improper representation of what Jackie Robinson stands for,” Davis said. “[UCLA] says they support black lives but that seems to not be the case if you’re allowing this to happen.”
The stadium, where the university baseball team plays, has also been used a Covid-19 testing site.
UCLA faculty admonished university officials in a public letter Tuesday that called for the immediate removal of LAPD from the stadium and a full accounting of both the university’s action and the unsafe treatment of protesters in a pandemic setting.
“The cruel irony that this took place at a location used as a Covid-19 testing site is not lost on those arrested or on us,” the letter said. “As a public university, we serve the public and our students, and this in turn requires dismantling the mechanisms of punishment that have historically caused undeniable harm to communities in Los Angeles.”
The university responded to the public backlash saying it didn’t know the stadium was being used as a field jail at all and called it a “violation” of university of values.
“This was done without UCLA’s knowledge or permission,” the university said in a statement Wednesday, adding it cancelled its agreement with LAPD. “To see a space that’s so special to UCLA, particularly one dedicated to an iconic figure like Robinson, used as a place for punishing those who carry on his legacy is profoundly upsetting.”
An LAPD spokesperson did not immediately confirm the status of its agreement with UCLA for use of the stadium.
The university later clarified that it knew LAPD was granted permission to use the stadium as a staging area and that it would decline similar requests from agencies going forward.
“We were never informed that it would also be used to process arrests,” the university said in the statement. “But allowing the LAPD to use the space even for staging during these recent protests was a mistake.”
The LAPD’s handling of protesters at the stadium also violated LA County’s public health guidelines for social distancing and face coverings, the university said, adding it will form a task force to create policies that ensure this type of action won’t occur again.