Officers who fired on UCLA students broke state law

By John Lindsay-Poland and Layne Mullett


OAKLAND (May 7, 2024) – On May 2, California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers stormed a student protest encampment on the campus of UCLA. The protestors were demanding that the University of California system divest from companies making weapons for the Israeli military and call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Gaza. The police used flashbangs, projectiles, and chemical agents during the assault on the encampment, violating state laws that limit the use of military equipment and force for crowd control. 

CHP is bound by state law AB 48, which narrowly restricts the legal use of impact projectiles (“rubber bullets”) and chemical agents for crowd control. It is also bound by AB 481, which requires California law enforcement agencies to publish policies for the use of flashbangs, rubber bullets, chemical agents, armored vehicles and other militarized weaponry. CHP agents violated both laws at the UCLA encampment. 

AB 48 restricts the use of rubber bullets in crowd events, strictly prohibiting targeting of the head, neck or other vital organs, or firing only because of noncompliance with a police directive. Police may use these weapons only to bring an “objectively dangerous and unlawful situation safely under control,” only to target individuals engaged in violent acts, and only after de-escalation efforts have been made. They may never fire indiscriminately into a crowd or group. CHP officers can be seen on news footage firing into a group at UCLA. Officers reportedly hit at least five protesters in the head and one other in the chest.  

“The militarized police violence unleased by campus officials against students at UCLA violated state laws on both use of force and military equipment and cry out for a response by the California Attorney General,” said John Lindsay-Poland of American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). 

State law AB481, passed in 2021, requires California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies to publish an inventory and policies for use of military equipment, as defined in the law. CHP was required to post this information by November 2022, before using any of it – including in the jurisdiction of another police agency, such as the UC campus. But CHP has yet to publish this information on its web site. This means their use of impact projectiles and launchers, flashbangs and chemical agents was in direct violation of state law.  

CHP purchase records obtained by the AFSC show that the Highway Patrol bought a thousand flashbang devices in November 2020. AFSC obtained these records as part of their efforts to end militarized policing in California.   

CHP officers called in to the UCLA campus were from the agency’s Special Operations Unit, which was created to “combat violent career criminals, gangs, and organized crime groups” – feeding the idea that student protesters were dangerous rather than addressing their demands to stop supporting genocide in Gaza. 


The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) promotes a world free of violence, inequality, and oppression. Guided by the Quaker belief in the divine light within each person, we nurture the seeds of change and the respect for human life to fundamentally transform our societies and institutions. We work with people and partners worldwide, of all faiths and backgrounds, to meet urgent community needs, challenge injustice, and build peace. 

Contact: John Lindsay-Poland, AFSC, 510-282-8983