Inside the Gaza Protests at University of Southern California

Jackson Aquino

Summary: Student recounts demonstrations and harsh police response – Editors

On April 15th, the USC administration announced that their undergraduate valedictorian, Asna Tabassum—a South Asian Muslim woman studying biomedical engineering while simultaneously pursuing a minor in resistance to genocide—would be barred from delivering her valedictorian speech in response to supposed security risks.

They wrote “The intensity of feelings, fueled by both social media and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, has grown to include many voices outside of USC and has escalated to the point of creating substantial risks relating to security and disruption at commencement.”

Following USC’s statement, Asna Tabassum released her own statement, boosted by the many social justice-oriented student organizations on campus. She documents her request for details about the “risks” identified by USC and their failure to clarify the specific threats that would prevent her from speaking instead—even though the University had clarified to her that they had adequate resources to guarantee the event’s safety, they would not increase security protections to preserve USC’s image. Despite their best efforts, the students of USC had imagined a different university captured by Tabassum’s concluding statement and call to action:

“I implore my USC classmates to think outside the box—to work towards a world where cries for equality and human dignity are not manipulated to be expressions of hatred. I challenge us to respond to ideological discomfort with dialogue and learning, not bigotry and censorship. And I urge us to see past our deepest fears and recognize the need to support justice for all people, including the Palestinian people.”

Today (April 24th), students have organized an encampment at USC’s alumni park beginning in the early morning. While the encampment was small, a confrontation with campus security led to the arrest of an organizer who was assaulted and pinned to the floor before being taken into a vehicle. Fortunately, protestors were able to de-arrest the student by surrounding the car and preventing it from moving. Following this violent confrontation, tents were removed and signs hanging from trees were taken down (according to supposed breaches of USC policy), but the encampment would only grow going forward. By 1:00 pm the encampment had grown too large to be dispersed and chants had grown loud enough to drown out the noise of the police helicopters and the hecklers. At 4:59 pm an order to disperse was ordered—and shortly afterward the protest would split, separating those remaining inside the campus and those marching around its perimeter.

Despite the arrests of 93 protestors and the state’s gratuitous show of violence I cannot help but feel some hope—chants such as “students of the world unite” and “there is only one solution, student revolution” echo through the campus, stretching far outside USC boundaries—combining with the voices of many other students all across the United States, demanding a free Palestine. Further, students at USC have only been bolstered by the state’s attempts at repression: they have retaken the space of the original encampment and have remained despite oppressive surveillance. During the evening of April 27th, 63 cop cars returned to campus to once again attempt to disrupt the students, but an outcry of support from the community, and hundreds of calls made to USC President Carol Folt’s office, prevented outright conflict. By 11:00 pm, the students remained and the police had dispersed.

On April 25th, following the first day of demonstrations, the main stage commencement at USC had been canceled and the encampment remained. The USC administration has embarrassingly decided to bury its head and refuse to hear the student’s voices. Meanwhile the students, at great risk, have delivered upon the principles which the university claims to represent.



USC April 15th –

Asna Tabassum’s Statement:

USC April 25th –


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



No items found