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Pro-Palestinian US campus protests grow as police crack down

Iran slams crackdown on US student protesters
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Pro-Palestinian protests spread to more college campuses in the United States on Thursday as authorities appeared to be running out of patience and police carried out large-scale arrests.

Students at some of the country’s most prestigious universities have staged occupations over the growing human toll of Israel’s war with Hamas.

Sit-ins and boisterous demonstrations, including a new one that sprung up Wednesday at the University of California, Los Angeles, are calling for colleges to sever ties with Israel and with companies they say profit from the conflict.

“For 201 days, the world has watched in silence as Israel has murdered over 30,000 Palestinians,” said a message posted online by organizers of the UCLA protest.

“Today, UCLA joins students across the country in demanding that our universities divest from the companies which profit off of the occupation, apartheid and genocide in Palestine.”

More than 200 protesters were arrested Wednesday and early Thursday at universities in Los Angeles, Boston and Austin, Texas, where a fresh rally was scheduled for midday.

Photographs and video from Emory College in Atlanta showed police wrestling with protestors on neatly manicured lawns.

The spreading protests began at Columbia University in New York, where a midnight deadline was approaching for students to remove an encampment that has become the epicenter of the movement.

Visiting the campus on Wednesday, top Republican leader House Speaker Mike Johnson condemned the nature of the protests and suggested it could be necessary to bring in the National Guard — a controversial statement in a country that saw Guardsmen shoot and kill protesters at Kent State University in 1970.

The protests pose a major challenge to university administrators who are trying to balance campus commitments to free expression amid complaints that the rallies have crossed a line.

Pro-Israel supporters and others worried about campus safety have pointed to anti-Semitic incidents and allege that campuses are encouraging intimidation and hate speech.

Student protesters say they are expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where the death toll has topped 34,305, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Demonstrators, including a number of Jewish students, have disavowed instances of anti-Semitism and criticized officials equating it with opposition to Israel.

US ally Israel launched its war in Gaza after the Hamas attack on October 7 that left around 1,170 people dead, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Hamas militants also took roughly 250 people hostage. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.

Demonstrations also flared at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Los Angeles campus, where 93 people were arrested for trespassing on Wednesday and at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin, where 34 were arrested, according to authorities.

USC said on social media site X at around midnight that the protest had ended and the campus would remain “closed until further notice.”

“Students, faculty, staff and people with business on campus may enter with proper identification,” the university said.

Los Angeles police officers went to the campus on Wednesday afternoon and “assisted the university in effecting trespass arrests” when protesters refused to leave, Captain Kelly Muniz told reporters.

The LAPD said there were no reports of injuries and patrols would remain in the area on Thursday.

At Emerson College in Boston, local media reported that classes were cancelled Thursday after police clashed with protesters around 2 am, tearing down a pro-Palestinian encampment and arresting 108 people.


– Coast to coast –


In Washington, students from Georgetown and George Washington University (GW) established their own solidarity encampment on the GW campus Thursday morning, the Georgetown Voice student publication reported, with a walkout planned at Georgetown.

Protests and encampments have sprung up at universities from coast to coast, including at New York University and Yale — both of which also saw dozens of students arrested earlier this week — Harvard, Brown University, MIT, the University of Michigan and elsewhere.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden denounced “blatant anti-Semitism” that has “no place on college campuses.”

But the White House has also said that the president supports freedom of expression at US universities.

About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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