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06/05/24 | 12:32 pm

Police clear pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Southern California

Los Angeles police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Southern California without making arrests on Sunday following turmoil at universities across the United States over the Israel-Hamas war.

The intervention at USC followed a raucous day on Saturday when dozens of people were arrested at a number of U.S. campuses.

Various U.S. universities with graduation ceremonies being held on Sunday braced for potential protests after on campuses the previous day.

Police officers entered the USC encampment at about 5 a.m. local time (1200 GMT) and worked with the university’s Department of Public Safety to remove tents as dozens of student demonstrators peacefully left the area, police said.

USC President Carol Folt said in a statement “the occupation was spiraling in a dangerous direction over the last several days,” leading her to request police intervention. She said the camp was cleared peacefully, without arrests, in 64 minutes. In an intervention at USC last month, police arrested 93 people when demonstrators surrendered without resistance.

The relative calm at USC stood in contrast to confrontations at dozens of campuses across the country where police have arrested more than 2,000 people.The demonstrations have emerged as a political flashpoint during a contentious U.S. election year as Democratic President Joe Biden seeks a second term in office.

At UCLA, where pro-Israeli demonstrators clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters last weekand where police arrested more than 200 people in clearing a pro-Palestinian encampment on Thursday, Chancellor Gene Block on Sunday announced the creation of a new Office of Campus Safety and appointed a leader, former Sacramento police chief Rick Braziel, who will report directly to Block.

“Our campus has been shaken by events that have disturbed this sense of safety and strained trust within our community,” Block said in a statement announcing the appointment.

The unrest led Democratic U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to compare campus protests to those against the Vietnam War that contributed to Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to seek re-election in 1968. “This may be Biden’s Vietnam,” Sanders said.

Mitch Landrieu, the national co-chair for Biden’s re-election campaign, on Sunday pushed back against that comparison, calling it “an over-exaggeration.”

“However, that is not to say that this is not a very serious matter,” Landrieu said on CNN.

One heated exchange between protesters and counterprotesters at the University of Mississippi on Thursday drew widespread condemnation after a viral video showed a group of mostly white students taunting a Black female protester.

One student who made apparent monkey noises and gestures at the Black woman has been expelled from his fraternity.

“The racist actions in the video were those of an individual and are antithetical to the values of Phi Delta Theta,” the fraternity’s Ohio-based general headquarters said in a statement on Sunday.

The university had already opened a student conduct investigation related to the incident, Chancellor Glenn Boyce said on Friday.

At the University of Texas in Austin on Sunday, drones deployed by police circled overhead as about 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied, with about 50 onlookers, local media reported. The speakers advised fellow demonstrators to remain peaceful and not engage the police. Students and other protesters have called upon universities to divest any financial investments tied to Israel and push for a ceasefire in Gaza.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military operations in Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave. The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

(Reuters)

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