Two parties were thrown by University of Southern California students and were occurring on the same street at the same time. One party was predominantly made up of White students, the other was predominately made up of Black students. One of the parties was disbanded by 77 police officers and the other was not. Unfortunately, even in 2013 it will not come as a surprise as to which one was which; The following are first hand accounts submitted from two students who had attended different parties.
I was inside the house accompanying my friend who was tired and I remember the music being cut off outside. Then someone came in the house and said the police were outside and the party was over. I said to myself, “okay that’s normal its about 2 am”. Police have shut down every predominately Black party I’ve attended while at USC (although USC Police attend to other student parties) and the party goers know its time to leave when the police come.
I felt that night would be no different. However, after a few minutes I began to hear commotion outside; the student who threw the party was being arrested. I ran towards the gate and saw another student on the ground being arrested with police hovering over him. I then ran outside the gate to the front yard and saw 79 officers in riot gear holding batons and Taser guns. The police Department said the officers in riot gear were called for back-up because bottles were thrown at them. However, only about 10 minutes or less passed from the time the music went off to the time I went outside and saw the 70+ officers.
The officers were telling the students to move and began forcing us into the street because the party was over. There were people standing around in confusion and upset because no one knew what was going on. No one understood the reasoning for the excessive manpower or force. After about 15 minutes students began to walk away and the officers followed us. The party was on 23rd street, and the vehicle I came in was parked on 24th street. When my friends and I and other students tried to go to our vehicles the police jogged together in an unit and stopped in front of us to block us from walking down the block on 24th.
Again there were students standing around in confusion now wondering how each of us was going to get to our respective apartments. We were wondering, are we going to spend the night at one place and get the car in the morning or were we going to walk to our respective places alone at 2:30am. With no plan in mind, we were forced to turn around and walk down Hoover Street towards the USC campus and the police created a barricade on 23rd while other police followed us. After we began walking towards the campus and were near 28th street, police from the barricade entered their vehicles and drove down to where we were and the police on feet rushed towards our group, stopped in front of us to prevent us from walking forward and began to arrest a few students. I then walked across the street out of fear and a friend who saw me in her car offered me a ride home.
I don’t understand why we were followed and treated like criminals instead of the students we are. They were called about a noise complaint yet followed us multiple blocks with batons and Tasers after the party was completely shut down. In addition to all of this, a party that had predominately White students was taking place at the same time as ours directly across the street. That’s we feel we were racially profiled.
I was inspired to reach out because I witnessed first hand the obvious and undeniable racial profiling that occurred on May 3rd. This happened at the same house a few months ago in which the excessive force of police occurred in response to a non-violent gathering of students. I saw students being senselessly bullied, insulted, manhandled, threatened, and terrified. We are all brothers and sisters and we must come together to stop this injustice that is shaming and harming the innocent people of our community.
It looked like a scene from a war zone. It was outrageous and I feared for my safety because the police officers seemed to be angry and aggressive. I never once feared for my safety at the party with the other students who were having a peaceful and fun evening, but I did feel threatened by the police.
The most blatant example of racism I witnessed happened when I walked down 23rd street to find a friend who had gone missing after the police aggressively cleared out the parties causing students to panic. I approached an officer who was standing in the street by his cruiser. I asked him if they had arrested anyone and what was going on. He gave me a quick reply saying he “didn’t know.” I stayed standing by him and didn’t leave. A Black student saw us talking and approached the officer in the same way I had to ask a question. The officer immediately puffed out his chest, put his hand on his gun, postured aggressively, and demanded that the student show him his ID. The student took out his USC ID and the officer shouted, “I don’t give a shit about your student ID” then continued to harass and insult the student, threatening him with arrest, ridiculing him for trying to ask questions, and acting disrespectfully. The student finally gave up trying to get information and fearing for his safety, left. The cop never asked me for ID or any identifying information. He did not raise his voice at me or even ask me to move.
The only difference between the other student and myself was race. We were treated differently by the officer because of our race. That is racism. Plain and simple, and if people are trying to cover this up or deny this, I will speak out and stand up for what is right. I will not let my fellow Trojans continue to be marginalized, judged, discriminated against, incriminated, and harassed. The party they were throwing was non-violent, controlled, and peaceful. The police response was excessive, violent, aggressive, hurtful, shameful, and anything but peaceful. If their motto is “to protect and serve” then what they did on that night was a total violation of that principle.
When the police later invaded our home without warrant or permission trying to collect witness statements, they violated our safety, and our privacy. They entered bedrooms of sleeping students, mine included, trying to collect statements to get us to confirm that what they had done was justified. Not one statement was given. We absolutely do not support what they did and are ashamed by the way our friends and fellow students across the street were treated.
I want the university and the LAPD to understand that we are all united in this cause, as students we must fight as a united group, not divided by race, gender, orientation, or anything. We must unite as a community and support one another. No one is free and no one is safe when racism clouds the judgment of those who are supposed to protect us.
I am in awe of the spirit of love and unity that is alive and growing between students, but I am shocked and appalled by the comments and responses I have seen from ignorant and cowardly people who do not support our cause and who tarnish our community with their hatred. We must do better than this. On May 3rd, a friend of mine, a female student, was approached by a black male student on her way home. He told her he needed a white person to walk with because he was afraid of what the police might do to him. He walked home with her. I do not want to live in a place where any student feels unsafe walking home because of what the police might do. The best thing we can do is demonstrate to the world our support for one another, our love, our acceptance, our tolerance, so that we may lead by example, and things like this may cease to occur. So that we can all live peacefully in the neighborhood we call home, and at the school we are proud to attend.
There are criminals in this community. I am certain that LAPD and DPS face insurmountable challenges related to those criminals. However, the students at this party were not criminals and yet they were treated worse than criminals. They were herded like animals, beaten, arrested, insulted, and quite frankly, abused. We were all hurt and terrified, not by each other, but by those sworn to protect us. We can recover from this, but not before changes are made. The response to the party is evidence of a much larger problem. Racism is rampant here. It must be stopped. It should no longer go hidden behind the smoke and mirrors that is the spectacle of one hundred officers and the deafening sound of police helicopters. That chaotic drama was a gross over-reaction, a fear tactic, an invasion, and a embarrassment to our community. We will not be silent.
The students of USC have created a petition to protest this incident, you can find it @ http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-racial-profiling-3
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