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Officers enter protest camp on USC campus – NBC Los Angeles

What to know

  • The unrest began last month after USC announced it had canceled the graduation speech of its pro-Palestinian farewell address.
  • After the LAPD clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters on campus on April 24, more than 90 demonstrators were arrested.
  • USC has limited public access to the main campus, allowing only students, faculty and staff with valid ID to enter.

Law enforcement officers in protective gear arrived on USC’s campus early Sunday, near an encampment of pro-Palestinian protesters.

“The Los Angeles Police Department is evacuating downtown UPC,” the campus public safety department said. “If you are in the center of campus, please leave. People who do not leave may be arrested.”

Tensions remain high on campus as graduation approaches, amid an ongoing pro-Palestinian encampment that has resulted in the cancellation of the university’s main commencement ceremony, the arrests of more than 90 people and restricted access to the school leaving the public is denied access.

Social events have remained limited on the USC campus, while pro-Palestinian protesters remained in their encampment at Alumni Park.



Faculty join pro-Palestinian students protesting the war between Israel and Hamas on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, April 24, 2024. Universities have become the focus of an intense cultural debate since October 7 in the United States. Hamas attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response to it. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)



Pro-Palestinian students march and hold signs as they protest the war between Israel and Hamas on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, April 24, 2024. Universities have become the focus of an intense cultural debate in the United States. October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response to it. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)



Pro-Palestinian students march and hold signs as they protest the war between Israel and Hamas on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, April 24, 2024. Universities have become the focus of an intense cultural debate in the United States. October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response to it. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)



Pro-Palestinian students march and hold signs as they protest the war between Israel and Hamas on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, April 24, 2024. Universities have become the focus of an intense cultural debate in the United States. October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response to it. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)



Pro-Palestinian students march and hold signs as they protest the war between Israel and Hamas on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, April 24, 2024. Universities have become the focus of an intense cultural debate in the United States. October 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response to it. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 24: USC police officers detain a pro-Palestinian protester during clashes after officers attempted to take down an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California on April 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. Pro-Palestinian camps have recently sprung up on college campuses across the country. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 24: Pro-Palestinian protesters gather at an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California on April 24, 2024. Recently, pro-Palestinian camps have sprung up on college campuses across the country. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)



Students attend a pro-Palestinian rally against the Israeli-Hamas war on the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles on April 24, 2024. Universities have become the focus of an intense cultural debate in the United States since the October 7 Hamas conference. attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response to it. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 24: USC public safety officers detain a pro-Palestinian protester during clashes after officers attempted to take down an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of South on April 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California California. Pro-Palestinian camps have recently sprung up on college campuses across the country. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 24: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators march at an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California on April 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. Recently, pro-Palestinian camps have sprung up on college campuses across the country. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)



Los Angeles, CA – April 24: Students set up tents on campus to protest the war in Gaza at the University of Southern California on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)



LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 24: Pro-Palestinian protesters brawl with USC public safety officials after officers attempted to take down an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California on April 24, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. Pro-Palestinian camps have recently sprung up on college campuses across the country. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The unrest on campus began last month after the university canceled the speech of its pro-Palestinian valedictorian Asna Tabassum, a fourth-year student from Chino Hills majoring in biomedical engineering and minoring in resistance to genocide. Citing “safety concerns,” the school said in a community notice that the decisions “are not only necessary to maintain the safety of our campus and students, but are also consistent with the fundamental legal obligation — including the expectations of federal regulators — that universities act to protect students and keep our campus community safe.”

In response, some USC students and community members protested the university’s decision to show support for Tabassum and called on the campus to cut financial and educational ties with Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.



USC students share their thoughts after LAPD issued a tactical alert on campus amid ongoing pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Christian Cazares reports for NBC4 News on April 27, 2024.

Tensions on campus escalated on April 24 when Los Angeles police clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters who had set up camps on campus. The confrontation resulted in the arrest of 93 protesters and the school had to cancel the ‘main stage graduation ceremony’.

University President Carol Folt addressed the protest encampment on campus in a speech May 3 update.

“Freedom of expression is one of our fundamental values, and throughout the year faculty, staff and students have held lawful marches, vigils and peaceful demonstrations,” Folt said. “But let me be absolutely clear: freedoms of speech and assembly do not include the right to obstruct equal access to campus, damage property, or incite intimidation, violence, and threats. Nor does anyone have the right to interfere with the normal functions of our university, including commencement.

“The University is required by law to ensure that students, faculty and staff can move freely around our campus as they pursue their studies, work and research. Every part of our campuses, including Alumni Park, must be fully accessible and free from vandalism and intimidation.”

The unrest at USC comes as universities across the country face pro-Palestinian protests — a movement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and putting pressure on higher education institutions to cut educational and financial ties with Israel to break.

USC’s rival, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), also faced protests. On May 1, counter-protesters violently attacked pro-Palestinian demonstrators and attempted to demolish their encampment. Police cleared the encampment the next day and arrested more than 200 people who refused orders to disperse.



UCLA and USC had major differences in their response to campus unrest amid pro-Palestinian protests and pro-Israel counter-protests. Eric Leonard reports for NBC4 News on May 1, 2024.