USC closes its campus as LAPD arrests at least 93 pro-Palestinian protesters

Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters at USC detained by LAPD

A Pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Southern California's Alumni Park that started Wednesday morning grew in size and intensity by the afternoon after campus police confronted the crowd and ordered the dismantling of the encampment.

It ultimately led USC officials to close the campus "until further notice." On Friday, two days later, the campus remained closed to the general public.

The Los Angeles Police Department ordered the protesters to disperse Wednesday at about 5 p.m., giving them 10 minutes to leave the area or risk arrest. Dozens of officers stood by as the demonstrators started to leave. 

"The Los Angeles Police Department is clearing the center of the UPC (University Park) campus. If you are in the center of campus, please leave; LAPD will be arresting people who don't disperse," USC tweeted at 5:50 p.m.

Many stayed in the area, locking arms as LAPD officers in riot gear marched closer to them. Others took out their phones and appeared to record what was happening as police started to surround the remaining demonstrators. 

Protesters lock arms as police approach their demonstration. KCAL News

Officers incrementally moved closer to the protesters as they continually refused to leave Alumni Park. Demonstrators seemed to throw water at officers as LAPD continued to move into the crowd, detaining at least one person in the process.

After more protesters left, officers placed demonstrators in handcuffs one by one instead of detaining all of the remaining protesters at once. Many of them chanted as officers detained multiple people. The protesters being detained seemed to fully cooperate with police. 

Protesters cooperated with police, often surrendering themselves into their custody. KCAL News

However, others chanted, "Let them go" and "Hands off students," as officers led the detainees away to a nearby courtyard. There, protesters sat down at a makeshift command center as officers filled out paperwork.

At the same time, some of the protesters moved away from the campus and blocked the intersection of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard before marching on Exposition Boulevard. Marchers eventually left the roadway and gathered at an entrance to Exposition Park. 

A protester throws water at LAPD officers as they approach demonstrators.  KCAL News

At least 93 people were arrested for trespassing during the protests, according to the LAPD.

Some protesters went to detention facilities where the LAPD was holding the people they arrested. 

Tensions started to rise after officers forced the protesters to take down their tents and a protester was detained. 

The encampment went up at the park Wednesday morning, similar to other pro-Palestinian encampments that have been part of other college campuses across the nation.

The group issued a list of demands, including university divestment from any organizations that "profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide and occupation in Palestine."

Campus Department of Public Safety officers visited the encampment, instructed students not to hang signs, flags or other materials from trees and posts in the park, and warned them not to use megaphones.

Students at times broke into chants of "Free Palestine," and when the student was detained, they chanted, "Let him go."

The man was eventually released after protesters surrounded a USC Department of Public Safety Vehicle.

The LAPD  has also responded to USC to offer assistance, though the protest remained peaceful after the confrontation.

The USC administration provided a 2 p.m. written campus update, which said that security personnel asked protesters many times to remove prohibited items, like the tents, and move to a different location, but they refused.

The administration also said that many of the protest participants did not "appear to be affiliated with USC."

"We have well-established policies regarding limits on the time, place, and manner of free expression," university administration said in a statement. "These include a prohibition on erecting tents or other encampments, use of loudspeakers, signs on poles or stakes, and the disruption of classes and other essential functions of the university."

Because protesters refused to relocate to a compliant location, were confrontational, and threatened campus safety, the administration said they closed the campus gates to restrict the size and growth of the protest.

"Until further notice, we are restricting unauthorized visitors from entering campus. Individuals with proper USC identification or verifiable business purpose will be able to access campus, attend classes, and participate in activities. This process is the same as our evening and weekend campus entry policies," USC said in a statement.

Late Wednesday night, USC said on X that, "The protest on the UPC has ended. However, the campus remains closed until further notice. Students, faculty, staff, and people with business on campus may enter with proper identification."  

According to the USC Department of Public Safety, the campus was operating Friday with "controlled access," with exit and entry available only at certain gates and specified times. 

Guests who are registered to attend a university event must show an ID and a ticket. No other visitors will be permitted on the campus. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations denounced the university's actions.

"It is deeply concerning that USC's response to students demonstrating peacefully in solidarity with Palestine is forcible suppression of free speech and assembly. This mirrors a nationwide trend of colleges and universities attempting to censor pro-Palestine advocacy on campuses," the organization said in a statement. 

The Jewish Federation Los Angeles called the demonstrations "alarming."

"The protests taking place on campuses around the country are alarming. Antisemitism, hate, and intolerance towards Jewish students has no place on any campus," the organization said. 

Wednesday's protest came as USC made national headlines in recent weeks over its decision to bar pro-Palestinian valedictorian Asna Tabassum from speaking during the May 10 commencement ceremony.

USC officials said the decision was made not for political reasons but over safety concerns. Organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council, CAIR-LA, and the ACLU of Southern California, have denounced the decision and demanded the university reverse course and allow Tabassum to speak.

Then, on Friday, USC canceled some outside speakers and honorees during the commencement program. Filmmaker Jon M. Chu had been slated as the main commencement speaker.

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