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Pro-Palestine Protests: 200 students arrested, police crackdown continues & more

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Law enforcement and students across the country have clashed as the crackdown on pro-Palestinian encampments on campuses continues to spread across universities in the US. On April 27, universities in the UK, Canada, France, Germany, and Australia were also reported to have joined the movement in solidarity with US students and Palestinians.

Organisers of these student protests have alleged that Israel is engaged in genocide in Gaza and demanded that their educational institutions “divest” from business with Israel and other defence companies. However, critics of the movement allege violent slogans were raised at these protests and that they are anti-Semitic.

Here is All You Need to Know

– Boston police, armed with riot gear, detained 102 protestors while clearing a camp at the Northeastern University on April 27, AP reported. Security was also seen loading tents in the back of a truck. In a statement, the university claims “virulent anti-Semitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews'”, were raised at the encampment, as per AFP.

– Police arrested 69 protestors at the encampment near Arizona State University for “trespassing” on campus, AFP said. Officials said the protest group comprised non-students, faculty, or staff and had ignored repeated orders to disperse.

– Another 23 protestors were arrested at Indiana University the same day as police cleared out a campus encampment. As per a report by the local newspaper the Indiana Daily Student, police with “shields, batons, riot gear broke through a line of protestors who had linked arms, tackling those who did not move”.

– US university administrators are facing a “major challenge” balancing between free speech and alleged hate speech during protests, AFP said. There has also been a backlash against calling the police force on campus to evict students as videos show the use of tasers and chemicals.

– Northeastern University in its statement further said that the campus is now “fully secured” and “operations have returned to normal”. It added that those who provided valid student IDs would face disciplinary action and not legal proceedings.

– MIT President Sally Kornbluth in a statement justified police presence on campus saying the encampment was a “potential magnet” for disruption, adding that the administration is open to further discussion”, but “this particular form of expression needs to end soon”, as per the AP report.

– University of Pennsylvania interim President J Larry Jameson on April 26 called for disbandment of the encampment on campus for violating policies, but around 40 remained as of April 27. Jameson said protestors engaged in “harassing and intimidating comments and actions” and antisemitic graffiti, categorised as a “hate crime”.

– Some UPenn faculty however said they are “deeply disturbed” by Jameson’s email and dispute his versions of events having “attended and observed the demonstration.”

– Columbia University, which kick-started the pro-Palestine encampment movement in the US, has been relatively calm, the report added. Last week, 100 protestors were detained from the campus, which resulted in the mushrooming of solidarity protests at Yale, Harvard, the University of Southern California (USC), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) among others. Student protest encampments have now spread country-wide and even globally.

Columbia authorities had in a statement denounced antisemitic rhetoric on social media and said that students involved would be held accountable.

– California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt (Caly State Humboldt) said it is moving to remote learning and closing campus till semester-end as protestors took over buildings on campus, AFP reported.

– Further north, in Canada, McGill University saw its first encampment on April 27 and the Montreal school’s authorities have said this is not permitted. Internationally, solidarity student encampments have been reported in the UK, France, Germany and Australian colleges and universities as well.

Why Are Students Protesting?

Israel launched a blitzkrieg on the Gaza Strip after Hamas attacked a music festival on October 7, killing 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. They also took 250 hostages, of whom 129 are still in Gaza, including 34 dead, the military said.

Since then, Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,388 people, including 13,000 children, in Gaza, as per the territory’s health ministry.

Students and protestors alleged that Israel‘s actions in the Palestinian regions amount to genocide and war crimes and are demanding that the US government cut financial and arms deals, and their “complicit” universities cut ties with the country.

Israel and its supporters have branded the protests as antisemitic, while critics of Israel say it uses such allegations to silence opponents.

Universities are facing backlash from sections of the public and school faculty members for decisions to call in law enforcement on campus. Faculty at universities in California, Georgia, and Texas have initiated or passed votes of no confidence in their leadership, but these are “symbolic” and cannot be used to remove their presidents, as per AP.

(With inputs from AFP and AP)

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Published: 28 Apr 2024, 10:08 AM IST

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