Anti-war protesters leave USC after police arrive, as ceremony in Northeast proceeds calmly

Students protesting the war in Gaza left their camp at the University of Southern California early Sunday after being surrounded by police and threatened with arrest, while Northeastern University’s graduation ended peacefully at Fenway Park in Boston.

Events at both locations were being closely watched following dozens of arrests last month: more than 90 people at USC in Los Angeles and about 100 at Northeastern in Boston.

Dozens of Los Angeles Police Department officers arrived around 4 a.m. at USC to assist campus security officers. The university had warned of arrests on social media and in person. Video showed some protesters packing up and leaving, while officers formed lines to push others away from the camp as it emptied. The university said there were no reports of arrests.

USC President Carol Folt said it was time to draw a line because “the occupation was moving in a dangerous direction” with areas of campus blocked off and people harassed.

“The operation was peaceful,” Folt wrote in an update. “Campus is opening, students are returning to prepare for finals, and preparation for graduation is in full swing.”

USC previously canceled its main graduation ceremony and allowed other graduation activities to continue.

Across town, at the University of California, Los Angeles, officials announced the creation of a new chief security officer position to oversee campus security operations. Sunday’s announcement came after UCLA came under fire for its handling of protests that culminated in a mob attack on a pro-Palestinian student camp last week.

At Sunday’s graduation ceremony in the Northeast, some students waved small Palestinian and Israeli flags, but they were outnumbered by those waving the flags of India and the United States, among others. University student Rebecca Bamidele received brief applause when she called for peace in Gaza.

The Associated Press has counted about 2,500 people arrested on about 50 campuses since April 18, based on its reports and statements from universities and authorities.

Arrests continued apace over the weekend. At the University of Virginia, there were 25 arrests Saturday for trespassing after police clashed with protesters who refused to remove tents. On the campus of the Art Institute of Chicago, police cleared a pro-Palestinian encampment hours after it was set up Saturday and arrested 68 people, saying they would be charged with trespassing.

Arrests in Virginia

In Charlottesville, Virginia, students began their protest Tuesday on the lawn in front of the school chapel. Video from Saturday showed police in riot gear and holding shields lining the campus, as protesters chanted “Free Palestine.”

When police entered, students were pushed to the ground, pulled by their arms and sprayed with a chemical irritant, Laura Goldblatt, an assistant professor who has been helping protesters, told The Washington Post. The university said protesters were told that tents were prohibited under school policy and were asked to remove them.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares told Fox News on Sunday that the police response was justified because the students had been repeatedly warned to leave, they were violating the school’s code of conduct and because outsiders who were not They were students who provided protesters with supplies such as wooden barriers.

“We’ve seen non-students show up in riot gear and bull horns to tell protesters how to flank our officers,” Miyares said.

He said some had put bear spray in water bottles and thrown them at officers.

It was the latest confrontation in weeks of protests and tension at American colleges and universities.

Tent camps of protesters urging universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies they say support the war in Gaza have spread into a student movement like no other this century. Some schools reached agreements with protesters to end demonstrations and reduce the possibility of disrupting final exams and graduations.

Demonstrations in the middle of the beginning

The University of Michigan was among the schools that had prepared for protests during this weekend’s inauguration, as were Indiana University, Ohio State University and Northeastern. More ceremonies are planned in the coming weeks.

In Ann Arbor, there was a protest at the start of the event at Michigan Stadium. About 75 people, many of them dressed in traditional Arab kaffiyehs along with their graduation caps, marched down the main aisle toward the stage.

They chanted “Regents, regents, you can’t hide! You are financing the genocide!” as he held signs, including one that read: “There are no universities left in Gaza.”

Overhead, the planes carried banners with opposing messages. “Divest from Israel now! Free Palestine!” and “We stand with Israel. Jewish lives matter.”

Authorities said no one was arrested and the protest did not seriously disrupt the nearly two-hour event, which was attended by tens of thousands of people, some of them waving Israeli flags.

Other protests continue

At Indiana University, protesters urged their supporters to wear their kaffiyehs and leave during school President Pamela Whitten’s remarks Saturday night. The Bloomington campus designated a protest zone outside Memorial Stadium, where the ceremony took place.

At Princeton University in New Jersey, 18 students went on a hunger strike to try to pressure the university to divest from companies linked to Israel. Students at other universities, including Brown and Yale, launched similar hunger strikes this year before the most recent wave of protests.

The protests arise from the conflict that began on October 7 when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking approximately 250 hostages. Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, about two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s Health Ministry. Israeli attacks have devastated the enclave and displaced most of its inhabitants.

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Perry reported from Meredith, New Hampshire, and Marcelo from New York. Also contributing were Associated Press writers Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Ed White in Detroit and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee.

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