man in mask wielding wooden stick

An individual in a mask, later identified by law enforcement as Edan On, attacks a barricade at a pro-Palestinian encampment with a wooden stick on the campus of UCLA on May 1, 2024.

(Photo: David Swanson/Reuters)

Police Make First Arrest for Assault on Pro-Palestine Protesters at UCLA

The arrest followed a CNN investigation that documented the hourslong attack and identified key perpetrators from the pro-Israel mob.

University of California, Los Angeles police on Thursday made their first arrest in the case of a violent mob attack on protestors at a peaceful pro-Palestine encampment at the university on April 30 and May 1.

The police charged Edan On, an 18-year-old high school senior, with felony assault for attacking at least one person with a wooden pole. He was remanded to a Los Angeles jail, where he's being held on a $30,000 bond, according toThe Guardian. On was first identified for his role in the mob attack, led by so-called counterprotestors, in a CNNinvestigation published May 16.

"Video shows On joining the counterprotesters while waving a long white pole," CNN reported. "At one point, he strikes a pro-Palestinian protester with the pole, and appears to continue to strike him even when he was down, as fellow counterprotesters piled on."

"The footage appears to show Edan On, in the white hoodie, and others striking at a pro-Palestinian protester on the ground," CNN reported. (Source: CNN/Key News Network)

The pro-Israel mob caused more than 25 protestors to be sent to the hospital with "fractures, severe lacerations, and chemical-induced injuries," and more than 150 were assaulted with bear and pepper spray, CNN reported.

Thistle Boosinger, a 23-year-old member of the encampment, had her hand smashed. "My bone is broken totally in half below my knuckle… [which is] shattered into a bunch of pieces and jumbled up," she told CNN. In another incident during the attack, a fourth-year UCLA student suffered two head injuries in a matter of minutes. After being hit in the forehead with a traffic cone, he was hit in the back of the head with a wooden plank, video shows.

The CNN investigation identified some of the other assailants and documented the violence from the attack, which lasted for seven hours. Videos captured not just violence but also hateful rhetoric. An unidentified person in a hoodie, who like On attacked a pro-Palestine protester with a pole at one point, yelled, "You guys are about to get fucked up," and "Fuck you, fucking terrorists," as well as, "The score is 30,000"—a reference to the death toll in Gaza.

The mob also shouted "Second Nakba!" at the protestors, referring to the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homeland in the late 1940s, according to a Los Angeles Times reporter.

On's mother, who had previously described UCLA student protesters as "human animals," bragged about his role in the attack on social media, even circling an image of him. "Edan went to bully the Palestinian students in the tents at UCLA and played the song that they played to the Nukhba terrorists in prison!" she wrote in Hebrew, CNN reported. When the outlet sought an interview with On, his mother claimed that he was in Israel and planned to join the Israel Defense Forces.

"Video footage shows that some counterprotesters instigated the fighting," CNN reported. "Then police did little as a large group of counterprotesters calmly walked away, leaving behind bloody, bruised students and other protesters."

The hands-off approach was criticized in light of the heavy-handed tactics that police have used against campus protesters across the country, in spite of the fact that the protests have been overwhelmingly nonviolent. More than 800 UCLA faculty and staff signed a letter calling for university Chancellor Gene Block to resign—and to adhere to students' demands to divest from military weapons production companies and supporting systems—but the academic senate narrowly voted not to censure him.

News of On's arrest followed other events Thursday related to pro-Palestine activism at UCLA. Block testified before the Republican-led U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, some of whose members grilled him for being inattentive to antisemitism on campus. Taking an opposing position, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) asked why no one had been held to account for the mob attack, the Los Angeles Times reported.

As Block was testifying, student activists took the opportunity to form a new encampment, amassing a group of about 300 people in an academic hall at one point, but the group had to move twice and they were removed by police in riot gear relatively quickly, according toThe New York Times. This may have marked a new approach to protests by the Block administration.

Block told the House committee on Thursday that "with the benefit of hindsight, we should have been prepared to immediately remove the encampment if and when the safety of our community was put at risk."

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