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Campus Protests Over Gaza Intensify Amid Pushback by Universities and Police

A wave of pro-Palestinian protests spread and intensified Wednesday as students gathered on campuses across the country, at times clashing with police, in a growing confrontation over campus speech and war in Gaza.

University administrators from Texas to California have decided to evacuate protesters and prevent encampments from setting up on their own campuses, as they did at Columbia University, by deploying police to new locations. tense clashes which have already led to dozens of arrests.

At the same time, new protests continued to erupt in cities like Pittsburgh and San Antonio. Students expressed solidarity with their fellow students at Columbia and with a pro-Palestinian movement that seemed galvanized by backlash on other campuses and the looming end of the academic year.

Protesters on several campuses said their demands included divestment from their universities from companies linked to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, disclosure of these and other investments and recognition of the continued right to protest without sanction.

The protests also spread overseas, with students on campuses in Cairo, Paris and Sydney, Australia, gathering to express support for the Palestinians and opposition to the war.

As new protests emerged, House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia’s New York campus, where university officials sought to negotiate with protest leaders to end to the encampment of about 80 tents still erected on the central lawn of the campus. .

Mr. Johnson said the school’s president, Nemat Shafik, should resign if she fails to immediately bring the situation under control, calling her an “incompetent leader” who failed to ensure the safety of Jewish students.

The speaker said there may be an appropriate time to call in the National Guard and that Congress should consider revoking federal funding if universities fail to control protests.

Republican lawmakers have for months accused college administrators of not doing enough to protect Jewish students on college campuses, seizing on an issue that deeply divides Democrats.

Some of the campus protests that have taken place since the war began last year have included hate speech and expressions of support for Hamas, the Gaza-based armed group that carried out the deadly attacks on Israel on July 7. October, sparking the war that left more than 34,000 people dead in Gaza, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

One of the largest new protests on Wednesday took place in Texas, where dozens of police officers, many in riot gear and some on horseback, blocked the path of demonstrators outside Texas’ first public university. State, The University of Texas at Austin. At least 34 people were arrested after refusing to disperse, according to a state police spokeswoman.

Gov. Greg Abbott said arrests would continue until protesters disperse. “These protesters belong in prison” he wrote about. “Students who participate in hateful, anti-Semitic protests at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled. »

Hours earlier, on the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas, a large group of student protesters briefly staged a sit-in near the university president’s office, demanding divestment. The students left after the president agreed to meet with them.

At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, police intervened just before lunchtime to disperse an encampment of around 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators in the center of campus. As protesters chanted “Shame,” officers tackled at least one protester and forced him into a campus police car, but the protester was later released.

Claudia Galliani, 26, a master’s student in public policy at USC, said she was protesting “to stand in solidarity with students at Columbia and other campuses across the United States who are experiencing brutality due to their advocacy in favor of Palestine. She said protesters had been ostracized and accused of anti-Semitism.

Many USC students were angered by the cancellation of the commencement speech of valedictorian Asna Tabassum, who is Muslim, after complaints from groups on campus citing her support for Palestinians on social media.

“I think universities don’t want what’s happening on the East Coast to spread to the West Coast,” said Maga Miranda, a doctoral student in ethnic studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, who joined the protest. at USC.

The protesters returned later in the day, but the university prevented the establishment of a permanent encampment because the tents that had been forcibly removed in the morning were not rebuilt.

Shortly before 6 p.m., Los Angeles Police officers ordered them to disperse and threatened them with arrest and expulsion from the school. Many protesters moved outside the police perimeter, but more than two dozen demonstrators linked arms in the middle of campus, some holding Palestinian flags.

The officers finally arrested 93 people for trespassing and a person suspected of assault with a deadly weapon, LAPD officials announced Wednesday evening. LAPD Capt. Kelly Muniz had no further details about the assault.

Around 9 p.m., police cleared the remaining protesters from the private campus and locked the gates.

At Brown University in Rhode Island on Wednesday, dozens of students pitched tents on the campus’s Main Green. Organizers said their thoughts were with the children and students of Gaza, not the administration’s warning that the new encampment would violate university policy. They promised to stay until they were forced to leave.

“What we are putting at stake is very minimal risk, compared to what people in Gaza are experiencing,” said Niyanta Nepal, a student from Concord, New Hampshire, and student body president-elect. “It’s the least we can do, as young people in privileged situations, to take ownership of the situation. »

She said the emergence of a national student movement on college campuses has galvanized Brown students. “I think everyone was ready to act and the national momentum was what we needed,” she said. Rafi Ash, a sophomore from Amherst, Massachusetts, and Brown University Jewish Association member for Ceasefire Now, said the student protesters were in it for the long haul. “We will stay there until they give in, or until we are forced to leave,” he said.

Harvard University administrators sought to avoid a similar scene by closing Harvard Yard, a central gathering place on campus. But students still flooded the courtyard’s lawns Wednesday, quickly setting up tents as part of an “emergency rally” against the suspension of a pro-Palestinian group on campus.

At Cal Poly Humboldt in Arcata, California, administrators said they were closing the campus over the weekend, fearing protesters occupying two buildings could spread to others.

Two students were arrested at Ohio State University on Tuesday evening, said school officials, during a protest on campus that has since dispersed.

The protests at the University of Texas at Austin were among the first to take place in a Republican-led Southern state, just steps from the governor’s mansion. Like other Republican political leaders, Gov. Greg Abbott has been outspoken in his support for Israel, and last month he vowed to combat all anti-Semitism on campus.

University leaders said Tuesday they had revoked permission to protest and warned those who might seek to gather anyway.

“The University of Texas at Austin will not allow this campus to be ‘taken,’” two administrators from the Office of the Dean of Students wrote in a letter to the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

State police were deployed to campus Wednesday at the request of the university and at the direction of Mr. Abbott, said state police spokeswoman Ericka Miller, “in order to prevent any unlawful assembly”.

When protesters began to gather despite warnings, the response was swift. Dozens of officers formed crowd control lines, some wielding batons. After ordering protesters to disperse, some officers burst into the crowd and evacuated several people, then returned for more.

“Let them go!” some people shouted as the crowd grew.

At one point, hundreds of students and their supporters gathered in the south campus mall, some of whom gathered in a large circle and chanted “The pigs are going home!” » Soon the police intervened again, pushing their way through the crowd and making more arrests.

Ms. Miller said the majority of those arrested were charged with criminal trespass.

In a statement, the university’s Division of Student Affairs said the university would not tolerate disruptions “like we have seen on other campuses” and would take steps to allow students to complete their courses and their final exams “without interruption”.

Anna Betts And Nicolas Bogel-Burroughs At New York, Edgar Sandoval in San Antonio and José Quezada in Arcata, Calif., contributed reporting.



News Source : www.nytimes.com
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