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Pro-Palestinian protesters at USC comply with the school's order to leave their camp

Protesters left a pro-Palestinian camp at the University of Southern California early Sunday after being surrounded by police and told they would face arrest if they did not leave.

The move came days before commencement events began on the Los Angeles campus, after the university said campus security officers would clear the area with assistance from Los Angeles police.

“If you find yourself in the middle of campus, please move away. “People who don’t go could be arrested,” USC said on the social media platform X around 4:15 a.m

Livestreamed video from student journalists showed the camp had emptied as police formed a line to drive away remaining protesters and prevent people from re-entering the area.

The camp was only reopened after the LAPD arrested 93 people on April 24. The atmosphere on the private university campus had remained largely calm since then as attention focused on her Arrests at the University of California, Los Angeles.

At the University of Virginia, 25 people were arrested for trespassing on Saturday after police clashed with pro-Palestinian demonstrators who refused to remove tents from campus, while demonstrators at the University of Michigan chanted anti-war messages and waved flags Opening ceremonies.

USC, a private university, has been the subject of student protests over the war in Gaza and the government's decision to do so cancel an opening speech from the valedictorian, a Muslim student who had expressed his support for the Palestinians. The university made the decision in mid-April, saying it had safety concerns after receiving threats. Some Jewish groups had criticized the student's choice as speaker.

Administrators later canceled this entire beginning of the main stage scheduled for May 10, when 65,000 people are expected to gather to celebrate the graduates. Additional commencement activities, including graduation ceremonies for individual schools and colleges, continue to be planned Thursday through Sunday. Since the end of April, access to the private campus for people outside the university has been largely restricted.

A video published online on Saturday evening showed some demonstrators preparing for the expected police operation with calm songs and chants. The camp was set up in a green area on campus, with dozens of tents surrounded by makeshift fences and covered with signs with various messages of support for Palestinians and criticism of the university and law enforcement.

A university representative read a statement near the camp on Saturday saying it must be demolished. According to Annenberg Media, a student-run campus publication, the encampment and unspecified acts of vandalism and theft of university property violated the law.

Early Friday, several dozen counter-demonstrators lined up outside the camp and played scenes from the Oct. 7 Hamas attack in Israel on a screen, Annenberg Media reported.

ARRESTS IN VIRGINIA ON SATURDAY

In Virginia, student demonstrators began their protest on Tuesday on a lawn in front of the school chapel. On Saturday, video from WVAW-TV showed police officers in heavy gear and carrying riot shields lined up on the Charlottesville campus. Demonstrators chanted “Free Palestine” and university police said on the social platform X that an “unlawful assembly” had been declared in the area.

When police moved in, students were pushed to the ground, dragged by their arms and sprayed with a chemical irritant, Laura Goldblatt, an assistant professor of English and global studies who has helped student protesters, told The Washington Post.

University officials said in a statement that the protesters were told that the tents and canopies they had erected were prohibited by school rules and were asked to remove them. Virginia State Police have been asked to assist with enforcement, the university said.

ARRESTS CAP WEEK OF PROTESTS

It was the latest clash in several tense and sometimes violent weeks at colleges and universities across the country that have seen dozens of protests and hundreds of arrests in demonstrations against the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas; Many of the camps were broken up by the police.

Camp of demonstrators calling on universities to do so Stop doing business with Israel or companies that they say support them War in Gaza have spread across campuses across the country in a student movement unlike any other in this century. Some schools have made agreements with demonstrators to end the demonstrations and reduce the possibility of disruption to final exams and freshmen.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 61 incidents involving arrests during protests since April 18, with more than 2,400 people arrested on 47 campuses. The numbers are based on AP reports and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

SCHOOLS BREAK UP FOR PROTESTS DURING START

Michigan was among the schools preparing for protests during the start of school this weekend, including Indiana University, Ohio State University and Northeastern University in Boston. Many more are planned in the coming weeks.

In Ann Arbor, the protest occurred at the start of the event at Michigan Stadium. About 75 people, many wearing traditional Arabic kaffiyehs in addition to their graduation caps, marched up the main aisle to the graduation stage.

They shouted: “Regents, Regents, you cannot hide! They are funding genocide!” while holding signs, including one that read: “No more universities in Gaza.”

Overhead, planes flew banners with competing messages. “Get out of Israel now! Free Palestine!” and “We stand with Israel.” Jewish life matters.”

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

State police prevented protesters from reaching the stage. University spokeswoman Colleen Mastony said public safety personnel escorted the protesters to the back of the stadium, where they remained until the end of the event.

“Peaceful protests like this have been taking place at UM commencement ceremonies for decades,” she added.

The university allowed protesters to set up camp on campus, but police helped break up a large gathering at a graduation ceremony Friday evening and one person was arrested.

PROTESTS IN INDIANA AND PRINCETON

In Indiana, protesters called on their supporters to wear their kaffiyehs and walk out during President Pamela Whitten's speech Saturday evening. The Bloomington campus has designated a protest zone outside of Memorial Stadium, the arena for the ceremony.

In Princeton, New Jersey, 18 students went on a hunger strike in an effort to pressure the university to divest from companies linked to Israel.

One of them, senior David Chmielewski, said in an email that the strike began Friday morning with participants consuming only water and that it will continue until the administration engages with students over demands such as amnesty of criminal and disciplinary charges for demonstrators. Other protesters took part in 24-hour “solidarity fasts,” Chmielewski said.

Princeton students set up a protest camp and some staged a sit-in outside an administration building this week that led to about 15 arrests.

Students at other colleges, including Brown and Yale, went on similar hunger strikes earlier this year before the latest wave of encampments.

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

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Marcelo reported from New York. Lavoie reported from Richmond, Virginia. Associated Press reporters Ed White in Detroit, Nick Perry in Meredith, New Hampshire and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee contributed.

Anna Harden

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