Police encircle USC pro-Palestine encampment, instructing students to vacate

1 month ago
Police encircle USC pro-Palestine encampment, instructing students to vacate

Over the weekend, protesters at a Pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Southern California started dispersing in the early hours of Sunday. This followed a police presence in the area, with demonstrators being advised that failing to vacate could lead to potential arrest.

Just days before the commencement events are scheduled to kick off on the Los Angeles campus, the university announced that campus safety officers, supported by the Los Angeles Police Department, would be clearing the area. They made it clear that failure to comply with the instructions could result in arrest.

USC’s latest announcement on social media platform X urges individuals to vacate the center of campus promptly. It is advised that failure to do so may result in potential arrest.

Livestream video from student journalists showed the encampment had emptied out as police formed a line to move remaining protesters away and stop people from re-entering the area.

The encampment had restarted after the LAPD first arrested 93 people on April 24 . The atmosphere on the private university campus had largely remained calm since, while attention turned to arrests at the University of California, Los Angeles .

At the University of Virginia, 25 people were arrested Saturday for trespassing after police clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters who refused to remove tents from campus, and demonstrators at the University of Michigan chanted anti-war messages and waved flags during commencement ceremonies.

USC, a private university, has been the subject of student protests over the war in Gaza as well as the administration’s decision to cancel a commencement speech by the valedictorian, a Muslim student who had expressed support for Palestinians. The university made that decision in mid-April, saying they had safety concerns after receiving threats. Some Jewish groups had criticized the student’s selection as speaker.

Administrators later cancelled the entire main-stage commencement planned for May 10, when 65,000 people were expected to gather to celebrate graduates. Other commencement activities, including graduation ceremonies for individual schools and colleges, are still scheduled from Thursday through Sunday. Access to the private campus has largely been restricted for people not affiliated with the university since late April.

Video posted online Saturday evening showed some demonstrators engaging in calm songs and chants in preparation for expected police activity. The encampment has been set up on a campus green space, with dozens of tents surrounded by makeshift fencing covered in signs with various messages of support for Palestinians and criticism of the university and law enforcement.

A university representative read a statement nearby the encampment Saturday saying that it had to come down, according to Annenberg Media, a student-run campus publication, saying the encampment and unspecified acts of vandalism and theft of university property violated the law.

Early Friday, several dozen counter-protesters had set up outside the encampment, playing scenes from the 7 October Hamas attack in Israel on a screen, Annenberg Media reported.

Arrests at Virginia on Saturday

In Virginia, student demonstrators began their protest on a lawn outside the school chapel Tuesday. On Saturday, video from WVAW-TV showed police wearing heavy gear and holding shields lined up on the campus in Charlottesville. Protesters chanted “Free Palestine,” and university police said on the social platform X that an “unlawful assembly” had been declared in the area.

As police moved in, students were pushed to the ground, pulled by their arms and sprayed with a chemical irritant, Laura Goldblatt, an assistant professor of English and global studies who has been helping student demonstrators, told The Washington Post.

The university administration said in a statement that the demonstrators were told the tents and canopies they erected were prohibited under school policy and were asked to remove them. Virginia State Police were asked to help with enforcement, the university said.

Arrests cap week of protests

It was the latest clash in several tense and sometimes violent weeks at colleges and universities around the country that have seen dozens of protests and hundreds of arrests at demonstrations over the ongoing Israel-Gaza war; many of the encampments have been dismantled by police.

Tent encampments of protesters calling on universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies they say support the war in Gaza have spread across campuses nationwide in a student movement unlike any other this century . Some schools have reached agreements with protesters to end the demonstrations and reduce the possibility of disrupting final exams and commencements.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 61 incidents since April 18 in which arrests were made at protests, with more than 2,400 people being arrested on 47 campuses. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

The protests stem from the conflict that started Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 hostages.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the territory. Israeli strikes have devastated the enclave and displaced most of its inhabitants.

 


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