SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 23, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of South Carolina

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 23, 2024, police arrested two University of South Carolina (USC) students after they had left a Gaza solidarity protest inside the student union building on campus.

On the night of April 23, around a dozen students gathered inside the Russell House, USC’s student union, chanting pro-Palestine slogans and carrying signs and flags. USC police responded to the protest, prompting additional people to join the protest. An incident report written by USC police described the group as “loud and boisterous, shouting chants intending to create a deliberate disturbance.” After police and Russel House management asked the group to leave, the protest continued for around 30 more minutes. The protesters then moved to another area of the building before leaving.

As the demonstrators left the building, police followed them. The group fled in different directions, and police arrested two students. A university spokesman later declined to explain why those two students were arrested in particular. The students were booked at Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and charged with breaching the peace. They were released the following day on personal recognizance bonds. According to a Go Fund Me created to pay for the student’s legal fees, USC also suspended the students from campus, leaving them unable to access their dorms.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about a university’s decision to request a police response to an apparently nonviolent protest and about the arrests of student protesters. While university authorities have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students and university personnel and should endeavor to prevent disruptions that inappropriately inhibit the functioning of or access to higher education, they must do so consistent with their responsibility to ensure academic freedom and free expression on campus. The punishment of nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.