US law enforcement officers and pro-Palestinian protesters clash

- colombogazette.com

A scuffle erupted between law enforcement and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the University of Southern California Wednesday, prompting school officials to close the campus to all but students.

The protesters, including students and off-campus participants, erected banners and pitched tents in Alumni Park early in the morning, a scene similar to demonstrations occurring on many other college campuses in the U.S.

While the protest began with only a handful of attendees early Wednesday morning, a confrontation erupted when public safety officers moved in to remove the tents, which are not allowed on the private university’s campus.

The protesters, who were objecting to the ongoing war in Gaza and Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, claimed officers were “RAIDING ENCAMPMENTS” and “VIOLENTLY ARRESTING” them, according to an activist’s account.

Video shared to social media by Los Angeles Times reporter Angie Orellana Hernandez showed at least one officer brandishing a baton after “officers put their hands on a @USC student.” She later shared another video showing students surrounding a police vehicle so it could not leave the area with a student that the protesters believed was wrongly detained.

School officials ultimately closed campus by about 1:45 p.m., allowing only students to enter, as reported by NewsNation’s Nancy Loo.

The heightened tensions come several days after USC canceled valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s speech, citing unspecified safety concerns related to her social media activity in support of the Palestinian cause.

Shortly after the campus clash, Andrew T. Guzman, USC’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, issued a statement saying the university “values freedom of expression” but added that it also has the “highest priority and responsibility is to protect the safety of our community and ensure our academic programs and university activities continue unabated.”

“[The protesters’] actions have escalated to the point of confrontation and have threatened the safety of our officers and campus community,” Guzman said.

In response, the school reverted to its protocols for nights and weekends, when “individuals with proper USC identification or verifiable business purpose” can enter campus, but others cannot.

“We want to be clear that we reject speech that is hateful and that causes harm to others,” Guzman wrote. “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 words came after an emotional morning and early afternoon on campus.

“There’s more than 33,000 people dead, there’s children, there’s family, there’s parents,” a USC student named Angel told KTLA’s Lauren Lyster. “I think that at this point, it’s just a matter of what’s going on right now. I think both sides, we need to acknowledge that we need to put an end to this, because there’s just been way too much damage.”

On Tuesday, Al Jazeera cited the Gaza Ministry of Health‘s numbers indicating that “at least 34,183 people have been killed and 77,084 have been wounded in Israeli attacks.”

“About 72 percent of those killed are women and children, according to an update by Gaza’s Government Media Office on Tuesday,” the outlet added.

Others said the massive crowds were intimidating. USC student Coby Russo, who said he is Jewish Israeli, has been “scared, really scared” by the protests, as have his friends and family.

“They’re yelling, ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,’ which was federally deemed as antisemitic hate speech,” Russo said. “I don’t even know how they’re allowed to be doing this.”

The Anti-Defamation League says the phrase is antisemitic and “is fundamentally a call for a Palestinian state extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, territory that includes the State of Israel, which would mean the dismantling of the Jewish state,” and it’s “long been used by anti-Israel voices, including supporters of terrorist organizations such as Hamas.”

The U.S. House of Representatives agreed, passing a bipartisan resolution condemning the chant as antisemitic earlier this month. (KLTA / Yahoo news)

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