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LAPD officers in riot gear clear pro-Palestinian encampment on USC campus

LAPD officers in riot gear clear pro-Palestine encampment at USC
LAPD officers in riot gear clear pro-Palestine encampment at USC 02:53

Los Angeles police officers in riot gear arrived at the University of Southern California early Sunday to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment after issuing a dispersal warning.

Overnight, the protesters had been camped out. Hours later, the area had been cleared. By daylight, live images from the campus also showed officers creating a perimeter around the site with no visible protesters on-site. Tents and the debris were left behind. No arrests have been reported, said Senior Vice President of Communications with USC Joel Curran.

The LAPD moved into the site around 4 a.m., giving a warning to have protesters clear the area willingly. That followed an announcement by USC on the social media platform X, where the university said, "If you are in the center of campus, please leave. People who don't leave could be arrested."

When officers arrived, protesters were chanting and some people were beating drums.

"Today, we saw heavy police activity on campus. Earlier today, we had an encampment that was set up here with around at least 100 members," said Zain Khan, a USC student journalist, who added that LAPD officers came on campus and gave a dispersal warning at which most of the protesters left peacefully.

"DPS and the LAPD escorted them out and essentially cleared the area," Zain added. There were no reports of any conflicts, or violence that erupted.

Curran said it was necessary to request the LAPD to respond to provide security to make sure that the removal of the encampment was carried out peacefully. 

"We want to thank LAPD for assisting DPS in clearing the encampment and restoring normalcy for students and community as quickly and safely as possible. We will share more information with our community later today," Curran added. 

By afternoon, USC's president, Carol Folt, issued a statement, where she said that the campus was open, and students were returning to prepare for finals. 

Folt's  statement went on to share: 

"Dear Trojan Family,

"I am writing to let you know that early this morning DPS, with the assistance of the LAPD, removed the occupiers who had rebuilt their illegal encampment in Alumni Park. The operation was peaceful. Campus is opening, students are returning to prepare for finals, and commencement set-up is in full swing.

"Over the last few weeks, the university exercised patience and restraint as we worked to de-escalate a volatile situation. We've spoken to the occupiers daily, issued repeated warnings, and offered opportunities and locations for them to protest lawfully. We've supported their right to express strong opinions and passions for their cause, as always.

"Yet when free speech protests devolve into illegal occupations, violating the rights of others, we must draw a line. The occupiers repeatedly chose to ignore university policies designed to benefit everyone, and to break the law. We needed to act quickly to protect the rights of our 80,000 students, staff, and faculty. We are in the critical period from the end-of-term quiet study week, through finals and our commencement ceremonies.

"Despite our efforts to de-escalate, the occupation was spiraling in a dangerous direction over the last several days. Areas of campus were blocked, people walking down Trousdale, our main thoroughfare, were harassed, and iconic Trojan symbols were defaced. In addition, university property was stolen, and commencement structures were dismantled. Residence halls, campus throughfares, and libraries had become places of confrontation. Some finals were disrupted with noise and chanting during mandated quiet periods. Yesterday afternoon, outside agitators jumped the perimeter fencing and assaulted our officers.

"This had to stop.

"With no resolution in sight, I requested the LAPD to assist DPS in removing the encampment as peacefully and safely as possible. At 4:10 a.m., an order to disperse was issued, providing the trespassers one last opportunity to leave voluntarily. In 64 minutes, the encampment was abandoned and cleared. The operation was peaceful with no arrests. We will not tolerate illegal encampments of any kind at USC.

"Over the last week, we methodically and carefully executed on our strategy. My goals were to prioritize safety and return our campus and our surrounding community to normalcy. We were determined to ensure our students could finish their exams without further disruption and that USC could host the commencement celebrations our graduates have worked hard to earn.

"As I shared with the Trojan Family last Friday, freedom of speech is central to who we are as a university and is at the core of our democratic society. USC is home to 47,000 students with many different perspectives, and our policies are designed in a manner that allows people to express those opinions.  

"In closing, I thank DPS and the LAPD for their swift action, professionalism, and concern for our students. I also thank the Trojan community and our neighbors for your patience as we navigate these challenging times."

Earlier in the week, Folt, said the school had started disciplinary investigations against individuals who "violated our policies and the law." She has not revealed how many individuals were under investigation. The disciplinary investigations followed the April 24, arrests of 93 people on-campus after a confrontation between protesters in the encampment and police.

USC has been the subject of student protests over the war in Gaza as well as the administration's decision to cancel a graduation speech by the valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, a Muslim student who has publicly supported Palestinians. The university made that decision in mid-April, saying it had safety concerns after receiving threats. Some Jewish groups had criticized the student's selection as speaker.

Administrators later canceled the entire main stage event 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.

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