What Happens When Black College Students Throw A Party? 79 LAPD Riot Cops Break It Up
Over the weekend, 79 officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)—dressed in full riot police attire—broke up an off-campus University of Southern California (USC) party attended almost exclusively by students of color.
Meanwhile, the mostly white students at the house party across the street were left alone despite being just as loud.
The LAPD told the student newspaper Neon Tommy that it all started when two officers asked the DJ to turn off the amplified sound in response to a noise complaint. The DJ did as they asked but apparently went on to make shout-outs over the microphone, prompting officers to shut down the party. The LAPD claims that partygoers “refused to disperse” and pelted the officers with beer bottles, forcing police to send out a distress call for backup.
“[W]ithin an hour, 79 police officers from five Los Angeles police divisions had arrived on the scene,” reported Neon Tommy. In the end, six students were arrested, two of whom were “treated for minor abrasions“. One police officer was reportedly treated for minor injuries as well.
Students, however, dispute the LAPD account, saying they peacefully complied with police orders and that it was police who brutalized students, not the other way around:
[O]ne student reportedly assaulted an officer while being apprehended, though this claim has been subjected to investigation following the submission of video evidence suggesting the contrary. Another student suffered severe lacerations to his face while being tackled to the floor by six police officers. This student was not resisting arrest, but was detained for “standing too closely to a police vehicle.” Yet another party-goer suffered severe cuts to his arms, shoulders and wrists after several officers converged to disable him for restraining another friend who was being detained by officers. One girl suffered multiple lacerations on her chest and neck after an officer assaulted her from behind.
The LAPD has opened an internal investigation into complaints of racial bias and excessive force. But if the department’s history of investigating itself is any indication, don’t hold your breath for an admission of guilt.
Lamar Gary, a black USC student, posted recordings of the LAPD presence that night. In the first video, you can hear the fear, disbelief and outrage in his voice as he says, ”I want you to witness LAPD right now. We were having fun at a college party. No one had a gun. It was straight up college students. IDs were checked at this party. No one had a gun. There are 79 LAPD officers right now. I want you to realize there are 79 LAPD officers right now.”
In the second video, Gary says to the line of riot police, “I’m not a criminal. I’m a scholar.”
Neon Tommy points out that this isn’t the first time USC students of color have dealt with riot police lined up outside a party:
On Friday April 12, 2013, nine Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) squad cars filled with officers dressed in full riot gear showed up to end a college house party hosted by students of color two blocks from the University of Southern California’s (USC) University Park campus. The officers claimed that they were responding to a noise complaint, but their riot gear sent a different message. To those attending the party, the incident smacked of racial profiling.
On Monday evening, USC students staged an on-campus sit-in to protest what racially biased policing.
Jason Sneed, a 23-year-old political science major at the sit-in, told the Los Angeles Times that he was cuffed and thrown in the back of a cop car. “They were acting like they were going to war with us,” he said.
The party was hosted by USC senior Nate Howard, who told CBS News that he was celebrating his upcoming graduation. “We had fun. We’re graduating, and we were having a good time. It was the last day of classes. We had sponsors here,” said Howard. “Most people were dispersing and leaving. The police came back and told everyone to get out and that’s eventually what people started to do until they started to get crazy.”
Sarah Tither-Kaplan, a USC student who attended a party across the street from Howard’s, told CBS News that the only difference between the parties was the race of the students in attendance. “Our party was predominately Caucasian students and their party was predominately black students, and basically, DPS and LAPD didn’t stop our party at all. They had no problem with us; they didn’t shut us down,” she said.
USC senior Makiah Green wrote about this dynamic in a powerful, must-read post, titled, “I’m A Scholar, Not A Criminal: The Plight Of Black Students At USC“.
Though she didn’t make it to the party in question, Green writes, “When the Facebook posts and photos started appearing on my news feed around 2:30am, I had flashbacks to an era I wasn’t even alive to suffer through.”
I was too scared to go outside, legitimately fearing that an officer would see me and arrest me for being Black and inquisitive. I can only imagine how my peers felt when they saw over twenty LAPD patrol cars pull up and release 79 officers to end a peaceful, congratulatory party.
It is inexpressibly disheartening to hear fellow students recount horror stories of police brutality two weeks away from being among the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. To know that my college degree holds no weight in the face of institutional racism and discrimination is sobering.
Green goes on to explain the reason behind the LAPD’s latest racial profiling scheme and, more importantly, why racial profiling is inexcusable:
Since the three most recent shootings, all triggered by non-USC affiliated Black males, that occurred on and around USC, there has been an increased presence of LAPD and other security forces around campus. Amid the tense racial climate that followed, I patiently endured the ignorant comments, racist blog posts and suspicious stares, but the intolerance has reached a new high. Six of my friends spent the night in jail.
To be clear, I do not have a problem with increased protection or security. Who’s to say that a shooting won’t occur at the next student party? It could happen, God forbid, and I understand why USC wants to be prepared. My issue lies within the selective surveillance of minority-hosted parties, as if crimes only happen among high concentrations of melanin. Criminal offenses, including sexual harassment, rape and assault happen every Thursday night on Greek Row, an undeniably white establishment. Yet, the culprits of the Department of Public Safety Crime Reports distributed to USC students and faculty, seem to be strictly limited to Black and Latino males (6’2-6’5 in dark hoodies). These reports, together with the newly constructed, other-izing gates around campus, have instilled an unhealthy amount of fear in students, administrators and safety officials. We have been trained to double check for USC logos on the sweatshirts of minority males on and around this campus to make sure that they’re “one of us.” It doesn’t surprise me that LAPD has adopted the same attitude. For them, it has been this way for decades.
A petition to “Stop Racial Profiling at USC!” has received over 2,300 signatures as of this writing. For those in the area, there will be an LAPD and DPS Campus Discussion on Tuesday evening (May 7) about racial profiling.