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Texas deploys mounted police as pro-Palestinian student protests spread

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Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters at the University of Texas were in a tense standoff with mounted state troopers Wednesday, the latest in a series of confrontations rocking campuses across the United States.

As students at the university staged a boisterous walkout chanting “down with occupation,” state troopers on horseback were making their way through campus — while elsewhere police in riot gear were pushing back protesters, according to videos on social media.

At least two people had been arrested, the student newspaper The Daily Texan reported.

The standoff in Austin comes as ongoing protests at New York’s Columbia University amid Israel’s relentless war in Gaza have sparked intense attention from media and politicians — and similar demonstrations across the country.

An uneasy truce was in place between students and officials at Columbia on Wednesday, after a deadline to forcibly disperse their protest encampment expired.

Protesters say they are expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where the death toll has topped 34,200 so far, and calling on Columbia to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

But pro-Israel supporters, and others worried about campus safety, have pointed to anti-Semitic incidents and argued that campuses are encouraging intimidation and hate speech.

Israel launched the war in Gaza after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of around 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.


– Columbia deadline extended –


Tensions at Columbia had reached their peak last week, when more than 100 people were arrested after the university president Minouche Shafik called in the police.

University officials had set a deadline of midnight Tuesday to resolve the unrest, but as more people joined the protest overnight the school extended the deadline by 48 hours early Wednesday, students said on social media.

They agreed to the ongoing talks after the school promised not to call the police or National Guard, organizers with Columbia University Apartheid Divest said, calling the concession an “important victory.”

“We fear that Columbia is risking a second Jackson State or Kent State massacre,” the group said in the social media post.

They were referring to two 1970 incidents in which universities called the National Guard on student protesters, with fatal consequences.

Protesters — including a number of Jewish students — say they’ve disavowed instances of anti-Semitism and are there to support Palestinians.


– Protests spread –


Republican US House Speaker Mike Johnson, who planned to meet with pro-Israel Jewish students at Columbia Wednesday, called the protests “madness.”

“What we’re seeing on these college campuses across the country is disgusting and unacceptable,” he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant also weighed in on social media, saying the protests are “not only anti-Semitic, but also inciting terrorism.”

Students have also launched protests at several other schools, including Yale, MIT, UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan and Brown.

At least 100 students began what they called an “occupation” on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Social media images showed an encampment taking shape at Harvard University near Boston Wednesday afternoon.

Classes were moved online and other on-campus activities canceled at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, after protesters barricaded themselves in a campus building Tuesday.

More than 130 people were arrested at a pro-Palestinian protest at New York University Monday night.

And police at the University of Minnesota reportedly arrested nine people at a pro-Palestinian encampment Tuesday.

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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