USC Students Say LAPD Overreacted With Force, Shut Down Grad Party

Students complain that the officers shut down their mostly Black and Latino party, but not a nearby party thrown by a group of white students.

Posted: 05/06/2013 05:57 PM EDT
L.A. Graduation Party is Scene of Police Force

A festive graduation party in Los Angeles spun into a nightmare for students at the University of Southern California over the weekend when a noise complaint was ultimately met with the force of more than 75 police officers who arrested six students.

For the students at the university, the incident has become a case study in police overreaction to complaints against African-American residents as well as how race can be a determining factor in how laws are enforced and how people are treated.

LAPD officers arrived at the home of a graduating senior at around 2 a.m. Sunday after complaints of excessive noise from a party attended by a largely African-American and Latino group of students.

“The officers spoke to the organizer about the citizen complaint and they were asked to shut it down,” said Sgt. Frank Preciado, a public information officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, speaking with BET.com.

But the music later resumed and police issued a citation. Preciado said that some students complained about the citation and sought to prevent the officer from issuing it, with some students throwing objects at the police. One student was arrested on felony charges of obstruction of justice, another five were arrested on various charges, Preciado said, adding that one officer had been injured. He was hospitalized and released, Preciado said.

Students at the party said that there were partygoers who merely asked questions of police officers and recorded the incident on their phones when the officers themselves reacted violently. They denied that the police were confronted with violence by the students.

“There were 79 officers and they came out in full riot gear,” said Lamar Gary, the president of the Black Student Assembly, which is the campus African-American student government organization. “One appeared to have a rifle,” Gary said, speaking with BET.com.

“When there are 79 police officers who are dispatched to shut down a student party where was no violence, it demonstrates a level of overreaction that is beyond reason,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gary said there was a party across the street with a largely white group of students who were also asked by police to end their event because of noise complaints but that no further action was taken.

Preciado said the students were all released and none remained in custody. However, the Los Angeles Police Department has responded to the incident by initiating an investigation to determine whether there was excessive force used on the Black and Latino students. The department is also conducting an investigation into the students’ allegations, looking into whether the officers were biased by treating one party with force and not the other.

Gary and other students complain that the Los Angeles police responded violently to a non-violent situation that could have been settled by calling the university’s security office instead.

“Students were afraid and they definitely didn’t feel protected,” Gary said.

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(Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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