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USC Protesters Forced To Leave Amid Police Raid On Rebuilt Encampment

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USC Protesters Forced To Leave Amid Police Raid On Rebuilt Encampment

Students protesting the ongoing war in Gaza 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 was set to begin, 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 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 then, while attention turned to arrests at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In Boston, commencement for Northeastern University began peacefully Sunday at Fenway Park. Some students waved Palestinian flags, but those were dotted among flags from India, the U.S. and other nations. Graduate students went first, with undergraduate commencement in the afternoon.

Last month, police arrested about 100 protesters at Northeastern when they broke up an encampment on the Boston campus.

People carry belongings out of an encampment set up by pro-Palestinian demonstrators after police arrived for a raid on the campus at the University of Southern California Sunday, May 5, 2024, in Los Angeles.

Ryan Sun via Associated Press

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.

At the Art Institute of Chicago campus, police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment hours after it was set up Saturday and arrested 68 people. Students, who attend classes in downtown buildings surrounding the museum, want the school to divest from companies profiting from the Israel-Hamas war, among other demands.

The institute said the protest grew disruptive and Chicago police were called. Those arrested will be charged with criminal trespass to property, police said.

USC, a private university, has been the subject of student protests over the war 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 last month, citing safety concerns after receiving threats. Some Jewish groups had criticized the student’s selection as speaker.

Administrators later canceled the entire main-stage commencement planned for May 10, when 65,000 people were expected to gather. 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.

ARRESTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

Heavily armed policemen arrest a protester on the grounds of the University of Virginia after police declared an unlawful gathering on May 4, 2024 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Heavily armed policemen arrest a protester on the grounds of the University of Virginia after police declared an unlawful gathering on May 4, 2024 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Eze Amos via Getty Images

In Charlottesville, Virginia, student demonstrators began their protest on a lawn outside the school chapel Tuesday. On Saturday, video from WVAW-TV showed police in heavy gear and holding shields lined up on campus. Protesters chanted “Free Palestine,” and university police said on X that an “unlawful assembly” had been declared.

As police moved in, students were pushed to the ground, pulled by their arms and sprayed with a chemical irritant, Laura Goldblatt, an assistant professor of English and global studies who has been helping student demonstrators, told The Washington Post.

The university administration said in a statement the demonstrators were told the tents and canopies they erected were prohibited under school policy and were asked to remove them. Virginia State Police were asked to help with enforcement, the university said.

A WEEK OF PROTESTS

Police take demonstrators into custody on the campus of the Art Institute of Chicago after students established a protest encampment on the grounds on May 4, 2024 in Chicago. More than 2,000 people have been arrested nationwide as students at colleges and universities around the country have staged protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Police take demonstrators into custody on the campus of the Art Institute of Chicago after students established a protest encampment on the grounds on May 4, 2024 in Chicago. More than 2,000 people have been arrested nationwide as students at colleges and universities around the country have staged protests calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Scott Olson via Getty Images

It was the latest clash in several tense and sometimes violent weeks at U.S. colleges and universities that have seen dozens of protests and hundreds of arrests at demonstrations over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war; many of the encampments have been dismantled by police.

Tent encampments of protesters urging universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies they say support the war in Gaza have spread in a student movement unlike any other this century. Some schools reached agreements with protesters to end the demonstrations and reduce the possibility of disrupting final exams and commencements.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 61 incidents since April 18 in which arrests were made at protests, with more than 2,400 people being arrested on 47 campuses. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

DEMONSTRATIONS AMID COMMENCEMENT

Joseph Fisher chants during a pro-Palestinian protest during the University of Michigan's spring commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Joseph Fisher chants during a pro-Palestinian protest during the University of Michigan’s spring commencement ceremony on May 4, 2024 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Nic Antaya via Getty Images

The University of Michigan was among the schools bracing for protests during commencement this weekend, including Indiana University, Ohio State University and Northeastern. More are slated in the coming weeks.

In Ann Arbor, there was a protest at the beginning of the event at Michigan Stadium. About 75 people, many wearing traditional Arabic kaffiyehs along with their graduation caps, marched up the main aisle toward the stage.

They chanted “Regents, regents, you can’t hide! You are funding genocide!” while holding signs, including one that read: “No universities left in Gaza.”

Overhead, planes pulled banners with competing messages. “Divest from Israel now! Free Palestine!” and “We stand with Israel. Jewish lives matter.”

Officials said no one was arrested, and the protest didn’t seriously interrupt the nearly two-hour event, attended by tens of thousands of people, some of them waving Israeli flags.

PROTESTS AT INDIANA AND PRINCETON

Indiana State Police brought an armored vehicle while arresting activists on the third day of a pro-Palestinian encampment in Dunn Meadow at Indiana University.
Indiana State Police brought an armored vehicle while arresting activists on the third day of a pro-Palestinian encampment in Dunn Meadow at Indiana University.

Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

At Indiana University, protesters urged supporters to wear their kaffiyehs and walk out during remarks by school President Pamela Whitten on Saturday evening. The Bloomington campus designated a protest zone outside Memorial Stadium, where the ceremony was held.

At Princeton, in New Jersey, 18 students launched a hunger strike to try to push the university to divest from companies tied to Israel.

One of them, senior David Chmielewski said in an email that the strike started Friday morning with participants consuming water only, and it will continue until administrators meet with students about demands including amnesty from criminal and disciplinary charges for protesters. Other demonstrators are participating in “solidarity fasts” lasting 24 hours, Chmielewski said.

Students at other colleges, including Brown and Yale, launched similar hunger strikes this year before the more recent wave of demonstraitons.

The protests stem from the conflict that started Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Israeli strikes have devastated the enclave and displaced most of its inhabitants.

Marcelo reported from New York. Lavoie reported from Richmond, Virginia. Associated Press reporters Ed White in Detroit, Nick Perry in Meredith, New Hampshire, and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed.