Anti-War Protests

Anti War protests in the U.S.

From New York to California, students protesting the Israel-Hamas war slept in tents at college campuses, as some universities moved to shut down encampments and arrested dozens of demonstrators.

With the death toll mounting in the war in Gaza, protesters nationwide are demanding schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they say enable the conflict. Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus.

At Columbia University in New York City, where early protests sparked pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country, students and administrators have engaged in negotiations, the university said in a statement Saturday night.

“Dialogue between university officials and student organizers is ongoing. We want to be clear: There is no truth to claims of an impending lockdown or evictions on campus,” the Columbia administration’s statement said.

Though the university repeatedly set and then pushed back deadlines for the removal of the encampment, the school sent an email to students saying that bringing back police “at this time” would be counterproductive.
Decisions to call in law enforcement, leading to hundreds of arrests nationwide, have prompted school faculty members at universities in California, Georgia and Texas to initiate or pass votes of no confidence in their leadership. They are largely symbolic rebukes, without the power to remove their presidents.

Washington University in St. Louis locked some campus buildings and arrested protesters Saturday. The St. Louis Police Department said in a social media post that it assisted campus police, although city officers did not make any arrests.

Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein said in a social media post that she and two of her campaign managers were among those arrested on the Washington University campus.

The University of Southern California said on Saturday it had temporarily closed its University Park Campus to nonresidents, without providing details of the closure or possible enforcement measures.

Joel Curran, senior vice president of communications, said in a statement that USC property was vandalized by members of a group “that has continued to illegally camp on our campus,” as well as disrupting operations and harrassing students and others.

Students declined numerous attempts by university President Carol Folt to meet, and the administration hopes for “a more reasonable response Sunday before we are forced to take further action,” Curran said.

“While the university fully supports freedom of expression, these acts of vandalism and harassment are absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Curran said.

In Boston, police in riot gear cleared an encampment on the campus of Northeastern University on Saturday. Massachusetts State Police said about 102 protesters were arrested and will be charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. Protesters said they were given about 15 minutes to disperse before being arrested.

As workers pulled down tents and bagged up the debris from the encampment, several dozen people across from the encampment chanted, “Let the Kids Go,” and slogans against the war in Gaza. They also booed as police cars passed and taunted the officers who stood

Northeastern said in a statement that the demonstration, which began a few days ago, had become “infiltrated by professional organizers” with no affiliation to the university and antisemitic slurs, including “kill the Jews,” had been used.

“We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus,” the statement posted on social media said.

The Huskies for a Free Palestine student group disputed the university’s account, saying in a statement that counterprotesters were to blame for the slurs and no student protesters “repeated the disgusting hate speech.”

Students at the Boston protest said a counterprotester attempted to instigate hate speech but insisted their event was peaceful and, like many across the country, was aimed at drawing attention to what they described as the “genocide” in Gaza and their university’s complicity in the war

The president of nearby Massachusetts Institute of Technology said in a statement Saturday that an encampment there had become a “potential magnet for disruptive outside protesters” and was taking hundreds of staff hours to keep safe.

“We have a responsibility to the entire MIT community — and it is not possible to safely sustain this level of effort,” MIT President Sally Kornbluth said. “We are open to further discussion about the means of ending the encampment. But this particular form of expression needs to end soon.”

Indiana University campus officers and state police arrested 23 people Saturday at an encampment on the school’s Bloomington campus. Tents and canopies were erected Friday at Dunn Meadow in violation of school policy, university police said in a release. Group members were detained after refusing to remove the structures with charges ranging from criminal trespass to resisting law enforcement, police said.

Arizona State University said 69 people were arrested early Saturday on suspicion of criminal trespassing for setting up an unauthorized encampment on a lawn on its Tempe campus. The protesters were given chances to leave and those who refused were arrested.

“While the university will continue to be an environment that embraces freedom of speech, ASU’s first priority is to create a safe and secure environment that supports teaching and learning,” the university said in a statement.

The tensions have piled pressure on school officials, who are scrambling to resolve the protests as May graduation ceremonies near.

USC drew criticism after refusing to allow the valedictorian, who has publicly supported Palestinians, to make a commencement speech. Administrators then scrapped the keynote speech by filmmaker Jon M. Chu. The school on Thursday announced the cancellation of its main graduation event, a day after more than 90 protesters were arrested by police in riot gear.

Folt, the university president, made her first public statement late Friday, addressing the controversies as “incredibly difficult for all of us.”

“No one wants to have people arrested on their campus. Ever. But, when long-standing safety policies are flagrantly violated, buildings vandalized, Department of Public Safety directives repeatedly ignored, threatening language shouted, people assaulted, and access to critical academic buildings blocked, we must act immediately to protect our community,” Folt said

The nationwide campus protests began in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, when militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to stamp out Hamas, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza. In the ensuing war, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

Israel and its supporters have branded the university protests as antisemitic, while critics of Israel say it uses such allegations to silence opponents. Although some protesters have been caught on camera making antisemitic remarks or violent threats, organizers of the protests, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and protesting the war.