USC President responds to 100 arrests from pro-Palestine protests on campus

Nearly 100 people were arrested after law enforcement broke up a large pro-Palestine demonstration on the University of Southern California campus. The protest, "Gaza Solidarity Occupation," is part of a larger, nationwide trend of college demonstrations to support Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas War.

Around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Los Angeles Police Department officers arrived on campus and issued a dispersal order. They ordered all protesters to move or face arrest. A little before 10 p.m., LAPD said 93 of Wednesday night's protesters were peacefully arrested.

FOX 11 captured the moments when the demonstrators were detained one by one peacefully.

SkyFOX was over the scene while officers removed items from Alumni Park, including megaphones and tents. Students in the encampment responded by grabbing their tents and marching around the park to prevent law enforcement from removing them.


Law enforcement officers formed a skirmish line on the outskirts of USC's Alumni Park. Hundreds of participants and onlookers can be seen in SkyFOX video blocking off USC's Department of Public Safety vehicles, at times chanting "Free Palestine."

Two days after the protests broke out on her campus and 10 days after canceling a pro-Palestine valedictorian's graduation speech, USC President Carol Folt "broke" her silence in the form of a full-page statement published on Friday.

Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, USC sent an alert to students, faculty and staff saying, "The UPC campus has been closed as a result of significant activity at the center of campus. Students will have access through pedestrian gates with their USC IDs. Everyone who is on campus will be able to leave."

In response to the protest, the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles released the following statement which reads in part, "The protests taking place on campuses around the country are alarming. Antisemitism, hate, and intolerance towards Jewish students has no place on any campus. JFEDLA is working to ensure the safety of every Jewish student across Los Angeles. While we believe in peaceful civic discourse, these protests have escalated to the point of creating a dangerous climate for Jews on campus. Our Campus Impact Network and leadership are working with our partners at Hillel USC, Hillel UCLA, and Hillel 818 to make sure our Jewish students are supported and have the resources they need to be safe."

The protest started early Wednesday morning.

"Most of them don't go to this school, they wear masks and all that because they're clearly not students," said Gabriel, a sophomore at USC, who declined to share his last name for safety reasons.

The university's provost, Andrew T. Guzman, appeared to confirm this in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, saying that many participants "do not appear to be affiliated with USC."

Guzman noted that the university has a ban on erecting tents or other encampments on the campus, along with a ban on the "use of loudspeakers, signs on poles or stakes and the disruption of classes and other essential functions of the university."

In his statement, Guzman said participants were repeatedly asked to adhere to the campus rules by removing tents and other prohibited items. "In each case, protesters refused," Guzman said. "Their actions have escalated to the point of confrontation and have threatened the safety of our officers and campus community."

"We want to be clear that we reject speech that is hateful and that causes harm to others," Guzman wrote in his statement. "In these challenging times, we call on the Trojan Family to remember that every member of our community is deserving of respect, has the right to be safe on campus, take classes, and participate in other campus activities without fear of harassment or bullying. It should be everyone's priority to treat each other with kindness and care."

Guzman's statement did not address any of the demands put forth by protest organizers.

USC's Divest from Death Coalition and National Students for Justice in Palestine announced their occupation of the school's Alumni Park on social media, and included a list of demands for the university.

Some of these demands include transparency of USC endowments and investments, an academic boycott of Israel, defunding the school's Department of Public Safety and for university officials to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

"To not stand in opposition of the expressly racist violence here and abroad is to ignore the calls for solidarity demanded by the majority of the world," said the organization in a social media post. "USC acts in accordance with these oppressions, and to call against this is to recognize both the inhumanity of these systems and our own humanity in opposing them."

According to the social media post, the Los Angeles' groups aim to create "climates that push universities to answer community and international calls for full divestment" from Israel.

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The protest comes after the university canceled pro-Palestine valedictorian, Asna Tabassum's speech for the 2024 commencement ceremony, citing safety concerns. 

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: USC cancels pro-Palestinian valedictorian’s graduation speech, citing safety concerns

The fourth-year biomedical engineering major from Chino Hills earned the title based on her academic accolades. But Tabassum has faced criticism for her stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Critics accused Tabassum of sharing content with anti-Semitic language on social media, including calling Zionists "racist settlers" and engaging with posts linked to anti-Semitism. USC officials said administrators received complaints, prompting the school to exclude Tabassum from speaking at the ceremony.

An uproar of student marches and protests ensued following the administration's announcement, with many citing free speech issues as a primary concern.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Protests at USC after pro-Palestinian valedictorian’s graduation speech got canceled

In response, USC Provost Andrew Guzman clarified that the decision was not about restricting free speech but was driven by the need to ensure campus safety and security protocols.

Tabassum issued a statement via CAIR-LA saying, in part, "I am surprised that my own university, my home for four years, has abandoned me."

Alumni Park is one of the campus locations typically utilized for the school's graduation ceremonies.