2013 Civil Rights: LAPD Racially Profiles USC Students

On Saturday May 4, USC students were celebrating the end of the Spring semester. And as college students are known to do, they partied. Near 23rd Street and Hoover, there were 2 similarly attended house parties being held. The difference? One had primarily Caucasian students and the other had primarily students of color. And as the night unfolded, that distinction made all the difference.

Around 2 A.M., the Los Angeles Police Department received a noise complaint regarding the party hosting students of color. And in response, the DJ turned off the amplified sound, as requested. But when the DJ later used a microphone, LAPD sprung into action and shut the party down.

Sounds pretty innocuous, right? College kids party. The party gets loud. Neighbors call the police. The Police shut down the party. Like any teen movie from the 80’s, it’s a cycle that happens all the time. But this time, the police deemed excessive force necessary. And the Los Angeles Police Department is not known for its discretion.

70 LAPD OfficersClaiming that beer bottles were thrown at them, the police amassed a cabal of 79 officers, some complete with riot gear, in order to shut down the party and remove students by force. Six students ended up being arrested, including Nate Howard, the student throwing the party. He registered the party with USC’s Department of Public Safety. He hired security. ID’s were checked at the door. But he also ended up in jail.

Taking all of this into account, you could make a case for the LAPD. Maybe there was reason for their show of force. Maybe the students were unruly. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But the most important fact here is the second party. The party just across the street, also referenced in the 2 A.M. noise complaint, was left alone. No police presence there. But why? All signs point to racial profiling.

At least that’s what Tommy Fleming, the neighbor running the second party, is claiming.

“They shut their party down with cops in riot gear and people were Tased, people were arrested and I just feel really bad that we’ve been able to have parties here and they’ve gotten shut down. I think pretty much purely because we’re a bunch of white kids hanging out here and they’re a bunch of black kids hanging out there.”

Students ArrestedAnd there we have it.This is what we call a perfect storm. Because we have the two parties, comparable in size and noise level, right next to one another, we can make judgments on why the two groups were treated differently. It’s clear as day.

I was a student at USC. I graduated in 2006. And in the 4 years that I spent there, we on the Black community knew that racial profiling was alive and well, not just in the surrounding neighborhood, but also on campus. I had friends that were accosted and questioned because they “fit the description”. We knew the world that we lived in and the struggles we faced everyday just by being alive. But why should anyone have to live that way? It wasn’t right then, and it isn’t right now.

However, the problem with racial profiling is proving that it is going on. It’s hard to prove that someone suspected you more than someone else because of how you look. Not a lot of easy ways of catching someone in that. But this? It’s open and shut. Just look at this conpliation video of footage from that night.

The whole scene is disappointing, terrifying, and infuriating all at once. And in the face of these accounts, the LAPD is denying any racial profiling occurred. But if it didn’t, why was the party across the street immune? Why did students need to be arrested? Why were 79 cops needed on Hoover Street at 2 in the morning? I’m not seeing any reasonable answer to those questions.

This could have been me a few short years ago. This is what my parents’ generation faced and fought against unceasingly as they entered into adulthood. And if injustices like this are allowed to continue, this could be my son’s future: harassed, arrested, and humiliated for celebrating your impending college graduation.

The question everyone keeps asking is, “How many more times does this have to occur for a change to come?” And the truth is we may never know how many more times tragedies like this will happen. But we are in control of how many times it is allowed to happen without a response. Let’s not stay quiet.

Purchase “Scholar Not A Criminal” apparel. All proceeds go to support the legal expenses of those arrested.

What is YOUR response? Share it in the comments. And better yet, share it with the world.

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Daren W. Jackson

Daren is one half of the Water Cooler Convos team. He's a writer, music connoisseur, and comic book geek who spends his free time working on his novel and other short stories.