Pro-Palestinian protesters at USC comply with school order to leave their encampment

The encampment had restarted after the LAPD first arrested 93 people on April 24.
Israel Palestinians Campus Protests
Posted at 9:21 AM, May 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-05 09:21:15-04

Protesters left a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Southern California early Sunday after they were surrounded by police and told they could face arrest if they didn’t go.

The move, days before commencement events are set to begin on the Los Angeles campus, came after the university said campus safety officers, assisted by the Los Angeles Police Department, were clearing the area.

“If you are in the center of campus, please leave. People who don’t leave could be arrested,” USC said on the social media platform X at about 4:15 a.m.

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.

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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 because she'd been accused of antisemitism.

Administrators later canceled 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 Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel on a screen, Annenberg Media reported.