Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Columbia University building | US universities

Dozens of demonstrators took over a Columbia University building in New York, barricading entrances and unfurling a Palestinian flag through a window in the latest escalation of demonstrations against Israel’s widening war between Israel and Hamas. to college campuses across the United States.

Video footage showed protesters on Columbia’s Manhattan campus locking arms in front of Hamilton Hall early Tuesday and carrying furniture and metal barricades into the building, one of several that were occupied during a demonstration for civil rights and against the Vietnam War in 1968 on campus.

Shortly after midnight, posts on an Instagram page aimed at protest organizers urged people to protect the encampment and join them at Hamilton Hall.

The student radio station, WKCR-FM, aired footage of the hall takeover — which took place nearly 12 hours after Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline for protesters to leave an encampment of about 120 tents under penalty of suspension. University representatives did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment Tuesday morning.

Universities across the United States are grappling with how to clear encampments as commencement ceremonies approach, with some continuing negotiations and others turning to force and ultimatums that have resulted in clashes with police.

Protesters from the pro-Palestinian encampment on the Columbia campus hold a banner as they barricade themselves inside Hamilton Hall. Photograph: Alex Kent/Getty Images

Dozens of people were arrested Monday during protests at universities in Texas, Utah and Virginia, while Columbia said hours before the Hamilton Hall takeover that it had begun suspending students.

Protesters are fighting against Israel’s war with Hamas and its growing death toll, and the number of arrests on campuses across the country is approaching 1,000 as the final days of classes draw to a close. The outcry is forcing universities to consider their financial ties to Israel, as well as their support for free speech. Some Jewish students say the protests turned anti-Semitic and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

At the University of Texas at Austin, a lawyer said at least 40 protesters were arrested Monday. The clash is an escalation on the state capital’s 53,000-student campus, where more than 50 protesters were arrested last week.

Later Monday, dozens of University of Utah officers in riot gear attempted to disperse an encampment set up outside the university president’s office in the afternoon. The police dragged the students by their hands and feet, breaking the poles that supported the tents and tying up those who refused to disperse. Seventeen people were arrested.

The university said overnight camping was prohibited on school grounds and students were given multiple warnings to disperse before police were called.

The plight of the students who were arrested has become a central focus of the protests, with students and a growing number of teachers demanding amnesty for the demonstrators. The question is whether suspensions and criminal records will follow students throughout their adult lives.

Gaza protesters arrested by police at University of Texas – video

The protests in Texas and others – including in Canada and Europe – grew out of early demonstrations that continued in Colombia. On Monday, student activists defied the 2 p.m. deadline to leave the encampment. Instead, hundreds of protesters remained. A handful of counter-protesters waved Israeli flags, and one held a sign reading: “Where are the anti-Hamas chants?”

Although the university did not call the police to evict the protesters, school spokesman Ben Chang said suspensions had begun, but he could provide few details. Protest organizers said they were not aware of any suspensions Monday evening.

Columbia’s handling of the protests has drawn federal complaints.

A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Jewish students alleges a breach of contract by Columbia, saying the university failed to maintain a safe learning environment, despite its policies and promises. He also challenges the abandonment of in-person classes and calls for swift legal action requiring Columbia to keep students safe.

Meanwhile, a legal group representing pro-Palestinian students is urging the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to investigate Columbia’s compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to determine how they were treated.

A university spokesperson declined to comment on the complaints.

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