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USC resumes classes; prepares for graduation


Commencement set-up ‘in full swing’

USC resumed classes and continued graduation preparations this week after a pro-Palestinian encampment was cleared by officers with the Los Angeles Police Department and USC's  Department of Public Safety, ending a high-profile demonstration that began in April.

No arrests or major confrontations were reported, but the campus was closed for several hours on Sunday.

“This morning DPS, with the assistance of the LAPD, removed the occupiers who had rebuilt their illegal encampment in Alumni Park. The operation was peaceful. Campus is opening, students are returning to prepare for finals, and commencement set-up is in full swing,'' USC President Carol Folt said in a statement released around midday Sunday.

“Over the last few weeks, the university exercised patience and restraint as we worked to de-escalate a volatile situation. We've spoken to the occupiers daily, issued repeated warnings, and offered opportunities and locations for them to protest lawfully. We've supported their right to express strong opinions and passions for their cause, as always,'' she continued.

“Yet when free speech protests devolve into illegal occupations, violating the rights of others, we must draw a line. ... We are in the critical period from the end-of-term quiet study week, through finals and our commencement ceremonies.

“Despite our efforts to de-escalate, the occupation was spiraling in a dangerous direction over the last several days. Areas of campus were blocked, people walking down Trousdale, our main thoroughfare, were harassed, and iconic Trojan symbols were defaced. In addition, university property was stolen, and commencement structures were dismantled. Residence halls, campus thoroughfares, and libraries had become places of confrontation. Some finals were disrupted with noise and chanting during mandated quiet periods. Yesterday afternoon, outside agitators jumped the perimeter fencing and assaulted our officers.

“This had to stop. With no resolution in sight, I requested the LAPD to assist DPS in removing the encampment as peacefully and safely as possible. At 4:10 a.m., an order to disperse was issued, providing the trespassers one last opportunity to leave voluntarily. In 64 minutes, the encampment was abandoned and cleared. The operation was peaceful with no arrests. We will not tolerate illegal encampments of any kind at USC.''

The encampment had been rebuilt after previously being cleared on April 24.

Protesters shouted “Free Palestine'' at 4:17 a.m. Sunday, as officers began surrounding the encampment, according to Annenberg Media. Officers subsequently started to remove the banners hung by protesters, moving them to the side of the park.

During this time USC officials alerted students that the campus was temporarily closed, but school officials later announced that it had reopened to authorized personnel.

“The University Park Campus is now open to students, faculty, and staff upon presentation of valid identification,'' USC posted on social media at 10:37 a.m. Sunday. “As an important reminder: tents and related equipment remain prohibited on campus and will be subject to immediate confiscation; camping and other non-permitted event(s).''

On May 2, USC implemented updated campus-entry procedures as it remained under a state of heightened security. The decision came a day after the school revealed plans for a “Trojan Family Graduate Celebration'' at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum–scheduled for today–to replace the previously canceled main stage commencement ceremony amid the pro-Palestinian protests.

USC announced late Friday afternoon it was also pausing visitor registration because the “campus is very busy with events and construction work to prepare for commencement,'' but existing visitor passes would be honored. Pre-registered guests must show a QR code available from the website, as well as a government-issued ID.

University officials said all bags will be subject to search. People wearing masks will be asked to lower them briefly to verify identification, according to the university.

The USC campus had been relatively calm in the days prior to Sunday's clean-up operation.

On May 1, dozens of USC faculty members marched through the campus in support of protesters, calling in part for amnesty for those who were arrested on April 24. The march remained peaceful, with some students joining the faculty in the late-afternoon procession. It happened hours after a virtual meeting between members of the campus Academic Senate and Folt, who was joined by Provost Andrew Guzman.