Police Again Clear Pro-Palestinian Encampment at U.S.C.



The Los Angeles Police Department removed a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Southern California early Sunday morning, pushing several dozen people out of the campus gates in the latest crackdown on student protesters there.

The encampment had sprouted up nearly two weeks ago in Alumni Park, a central quad on U.S.C.’s campus in Los Angeles. Shortly after it did, the university called the police to the campus, where they arrested 93 people, but the protest returned soon after. Los Angeles police said on Sunday morning that they had made no arrests while clearing the encampment for the second time.

The university has been in turmoil for several weeks following its decision not to allow its valedictorian, who is Muslim, to speak at graduation. The university cited security concerns, but the valedictorian, Asna Tabassum, said she believed she was being silenced. A group that supports the U.S.-Israel relationship had said Ms. Tabassum “openly traffics antisemitic” rhetoric. U.S.C. later canceled its main graduation ceremony altogether, though it will hold a modified celebration this week.

On Sunday, police officers in riot gear entered the campus before dawn, pushing about 25 protesters out of the campus’s metal gates. After the police sweep, the quad was littered with blankets, sweatshirts, coolers, snacks and overturned canopies.

Only a few of the tents were still standing, barricaded by wooden pallets and decorated with messages and Palestinian flags. Signs taped to trees carried messages such as, “every Palestinian has a right to live just like you and I,” and “disclose, divest, defend.”

In recent days, officials had tightened security around the private campus, allowing in only those with a university I.D.

Carol Folt, the U.S.C. president, said in a message to students and others on Friday that “there must be consequences” when people flout campus rules. She said the university had started the disciplinary process for people who had violated laws or campus policies.

Ms. Folt said that although the university valued freedom of expression, the protest had reached a tipping point.

“Free speech and assembly do not include the right to obstruct equal access to campus, damage property, or foment harassment, violence and threats,” Ms. Folt wrote. “Nor is anyone entitled to obstruct the normal functions of our university, including commencement.”

Protesters viewed the police operation on Sunday as an unnecessary escalation. Among the demonstrators’ demands are that the university call for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas, detail its investments and divest from companies that they view as enabling “Israel and U.S. colonialism, apartheid, genocide and violence.”

U.S.C.’s move to clear the protest encampment comes as the University of California, Los Angeles, continues to face scrutiny over its handling of protests. Police officers did not intervene for hours at that campus last week last week as a group of counterprotesters — many of whom wore pro-Israel slogans on their clothing — attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment. The next night, the police arrested about 200 people at the protest there.

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