On the eve of final exams, more than 700 students and others at USC and neighboring communities gathered on campus to discuss issues raised from a clash between students and police over how the LAPD responded to an off-campus house party over the weekend.
“You have my pledge to commit the time and effort to make sure that this will not happen again,” said L.A. police Capt. Paul Snell of the Southwest division. He was joined by the chief of campus security, an inspector general and other officials.
Students contend Los Angeles Police Department officers showed racial bias and used heavy-handed tactics when they shut down a party attended by mostly African American students early Saturday. Police said they were responding to a noise complaint and the situation escalated when a partygoer threw a bottle. Students denied throwing anything.
In the end, six people were arrested and one officer was injured. Two of the arrested students had “minor abrasions,” police said.
The incident garnered media attention after partygoers posted videos and photos of dozens of police officers donning riot gear and escorting students out of a house party.
At the start of the forum, audience members were shown a shaky video of police officers handcuffing a female on the ground. USC Department of Campus Security Chief John Thomas said the girl in the video was on the phone with him moments before police arrested her.
Thomas and others said they would launch a thorough investigation to examine whether police followed protocol. LAPD officials said Monday that they have opened an internal investigation into the incident, and the inspector general’s office said it is evaluating all formal complaints.
At times, Tuesday evening’s discussion got emotional as students shared their stories of getting arrested days before graduation.
Nate Howard, who was the host of the end-of-semester house party, held back tears as he described the ordeal. He called for the firing of officers he said had used aggressive force.
“This is bigger than us,” Howard said as three women comforted him. “Let’s make something really happen.”
Dozens of audience members waited in line to address officers. Junior Alexis Taylor said she came for answers on why so many officers arrived to the party the way they did. She said she was disappointed with the lack of more specific answers.
“I think tonight was still constructive -- to get some things out there and let everyone know how each side is feeling,” Taylor said. “Now it’s time to actually get answers.”