Back to the UCLA Overnight Attack

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Remember a week ago I was trying to find out more information or really just any information about who the assailants were when a group of “pro-Israel” rioters raided the pro-Palestine encampment at UCLA on April 30th. I’ve mentioned a few times hearing pervasive rumors (“common knowledge,” the origin of which is unclear) which I wasn’t publishing because I couldn’t verify them. But on Friday The Guardian published a story confirming that a far-right Armenian-American man named Narek Palyan had been photographed both at one of the daytime counterprotests and then on the evening of April 30th, but still hours before the overnight assault.

Palyan seems to be partly associated with a clique of far-right, Los Angeles area Armenian-Americans but also a group far-right protesters involved in school board activism in recent years under the banner of “Leave Our Kids Alone” — an LA group with the standard mix of anti-COVID remediation actions, as well as anti-trans and more general anti-LGBTQ activism. Palyan in particular has been frequently photographed at these events and rallies making Nazi salutes and his social media history is apparently replete with anti-LGBTQ and antisemitic messaging.

The Guardian certainly gives the impression that they think Palyan was at the overnight attack as well. And I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t. But they don’t have hard confirmation. It’s no surprise. Remember, it’s at night; everyone’s masked, it’s a violent and chaotic situation. It may never be possible to figure out who these people were from standard crowd-sourcing techniques. It probably requires police getting people to talk under threat of prosecution, as well as kinds of surveillance only police agencies can use.

It’s important to remember that Palyan is just one guy. And the whole Guardian article is about him and two other guys. There were hundreds or thousands of protestors and counterprotestors on the UCLA campus at the end of April. And there were likely more than a hundred individuals involved in the overnight attack. So there’s no silver bullet here or sudden reveal about who was behind the attack. It’s more a piece of evidence for a conclusion that is unsurprising but also worth knowing: polarizing public protests attract far-right agitators who both have an ideological interest in sowing violence as well as a more a personal desire and impulse to engage in high-profile violence against ideological enemies.

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