University of Southern California sees arrests during Gaza war protests across the country, campus shut down.

Protesters were taken into custody by authorities on Wednesday at the University of Southern California campus, which was not open to the public on the same day due to clashes between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and law enforcement officials at the institution as well as nationwide.

According to a spokesperson from the Los Angeles police speaking to USA TODAY, arrests were actively ongoing on campus in the evening of Wednesday. An exact count of the detained individuals was not provided by the spokesperson, although some reports from the media indicated that the number could be in the dozens.

The closure of the main campus was prompted by the “significant activity on campus,” as stated in an alert from USC’s Department of Public Safety to students. While individuals could exit the campus, students were instructed to enter through pedestrian gates using their school IDs.

On Wednesday, hundreds of students and activists from off-campus protested for several hours at the university, joining movements at various colleges nationwide that called for universities to sever any connections with Israel and advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza.

“If you are in the center of campus, please leave; LAPD will be arresting people who don’t disperse,” was the message conveyed by USC’s Department of Public Safety on X (formerly Twitter).

In the early morning hours, organizers established an encampment at Alumni Park, the central area on the campus where USC’s primary commencement ceremony is scheduled for next month. Students displayed signs with messages such as “Free Palestine,” “Ceasefire,” and “No war w/ out tuition.”

Protesters scuffle with security officers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on April 24, 2024.

Live updates:Columbia says encampments will scale down; police clashes at more campuses

Videos show clashes between police and protesters

Riot gear-wearing Los Angeles police officers marched in formation on the campus just before carrying out the arrests.

Multiple videos shared on social media captured various altercations throughout the day, including a situation where students reportedly obstructed a school vehicle with a detained protester inside.

Arrests follow protests over valedictorian speech cancelation

The protests on Wednesday followed a rally last week on April 18 at USC where students, faculty, and pro-Palestinian activists voiced their opposition to the revocation of valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s speech.

On April 15, USC announced the cancellation of Tabassum’s speech following a contentious online debate about her selection. Concerns were raised regarding Tabassum’s Instagram profile linking to a pro-Palestine website, with critics alleging her content contained “anti-semitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric.”

Several hundred people protest the ongoing war in Gaza on the University of Southern California Campus.

Additionally, the university canceled appearances by external speakers and honorees at the upcoming ceremony on May 10.

Tabassum, a South Asian-American and Muslim student specializing in biomedical engineering and resistance to genocide, released a statement following USC’s decision.

“I am not surprised by those who attempt to propagate hatred. I am surprised that my own university − my home for four years − has abandoned me,” expressed Tabassum in a statement disseminated through the Council on American-Islamic Relations L.A. branch.

Rallies ensue across US campuses

Protests unfolded nationwide on Wednesday at USC, the University of Texas in Austin, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others. Demonstrators, many of whom had no affiliation with the institutions, called for an end to civilian casualties in Gaza.

Columbia University announced a reduction in encampments following an agreement with protesters, while student demonstrators declared that the school had committed to refraining from involving the NYPD or National Guard, which they viewed as “an important victory for students.”

Nine individuals were arrested at the University of Minnesota campus in St. Paul by the police, who were also asked by the university to disband an encampment due to violations of university policies and trespassing laws.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the protests, labeling them as “horrific” and claiming that “Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities.”

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