USC Gets Political, But For What?
LOS ANGELES - In the early hours of January 26th around one thousand students faced off against a couple hundred police officers just North of the University of Southern California campus. For a long while the students and officers- who by the end of the night were wearing helmets, holding out their billy clubs and some even showing large guns- were at a stand off. The reason was not a protest, it was a party.
The famously apathetic campus does love one thing, to party. And somewhere around one thousand students turned out to 30th Street in Los Anegles for a "Around The World Block Party" (inwhich the entire block of houses banned together to have a huge party, each house representing a differet country/type of alcohol) although the booze ran out early, the kids hung around, taking over the street. The scene was a frenzy, with the college-aged students yelling how they had never seen anything like it before. I met up with a friend of mine from the block at about midnight, he had been hiding in his 30th street apartment watching from a window, drinking. We explored. There wasn't much partying to be done, a couple bottles passed here and there, but it was definitely a sight to be seen. It reminded me of two years ago, the last time I can rememeber the LAPD taking action. It had been the first party night at Fraternity Row, and we had all been told be the helicopters circling houses, "the party is over, please leave, the party has been broken up." I remember marvelling at the police involvement, the fact that kids were being arrested and especially the expense that must have been put into getting the half-dozen helicopters to come out for a bunch of Frat Parties.
Last night the helicopters were once again one of the first signs of trouble, of course there had been DPS (campus police) staking the place for a couple hours, but they had no chance against the crowds. When the helicopters started shining their lights half of the students I were with hid in the bedroom we were in, filming the action (we're film students, its just what we do) the other half went out and got involved. The whole ordeal went on for hours, with enough time to marvel at it, then get involved, get arrested, maybe get hit, get bored, get uninvolved, leave the scene, come back.
My friend and I watched form the front yard for a while as the helicopter circled and the Los Angeles Police tried to make a dent in the horde of students. There were more than thirty officers, they pulled on helmets and took out billy clubs. The students sat down and began chanting. They called back up. The kids would throw things and try to provoke violence. A couple students probably got arrested if anything, but "we" were still in control. They kept calling more back-up. Eventually there were around two hundred police officers on the street, the thing is a full-fledged riot and they are treating it as such. They put together a plan and some start pulling out guns. It seriously has an us-versus-them feel and most students don't doubt that they could resort to some extreme violence.
The police and students break the stand-off in the street with some fighting, clubbing, throwing of bottles and arrests. The rest of us are guided back to houses where we are told we cannot go on the sidewalk or the street. We are told we need to leave out back exits and stay off the street. In the end the LAPD "wins" the street back. The students hide and watch late into the night. My friends and I leave eventually, bored - we were there to party.
While it was memorable and a hell of a way to start off the new semester and obviously a big surprise, it was also a reminder of what this school, and maybe lots of colleges in the US, stand for. In my four years at USC the two biggest demonstrations I have seen were not anything like my parents protests against the draft or their war, but was more "fight for your right to party." The one thing that gets this very apathetic campus passionate or political, is taking away the one freedom they seem to care about, partying. Too bad this is how we choose our tax dollars to work.
Tags: USC , LAPD , Police , 30th Street , Stand-off , Riot , Party , University Of Southern Ca
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