Chaos Across US Universities As Pro-Palestine Campus Protests Intensify Amid Gaza War; WATCH Viral Videos

(MENAFN- AsiaNet News) Over the past week, campuses across the United States, including renowned institutions like Columbia, Yale, and New York University, have witnessed fervent demonstrations amid the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza. These protests, orchestrated by student organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, have articulated strong demands, resulting in significant disruptions and a robust police presence.

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Protests that had been brewing for months reached a boiling point last Thursday as over 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators, camped on Columbia University's upper Manhattan campus, were arrested. This incident marked a significant escalation, triggering a chain reaction of arrests at other academic institutions for charges ranging from trespassing to disorderly conduct.

Close to Columbia, New York University also faced heightened tensions. Late Monday, 133 protesters were arrested, released with court summonses for disorderly conduct. Reports and official statements recounted attacks on NYPD officers, including one struck by a chair and others pelted with bottles. The NYPD confirmed these assaults, noting injuries sustained by officers due to thrown projectiles.

At Yale University in Connecticut, 60 individuals, including 47 students, were detained after refusing to vacate a campus plaza where they had set up camp. Despite proposals for dialogue from university officials, the demonstrators persisted, prompting authorities to disperse the encampment and make arrests, citing escalating safety concerns.

In the Midwest, the University of Michigan's protest swelled with nearly 40 tents by Tuesday, while the University of Minnesota saw the arrest of nine anti-war demonstrators as police cleared an encampment in front of the campus library. This sparked a sizable rally later that day, with hundreds demanding the release of those detained.

On the West Coast, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, closed its campus until Wednesday following a demonstration that led to the occupation of a building on Monday night. The university confirmed three arrests and announced temporary shifts to online classes on its website.

From Columbia to Yale, universities are experiencing a resurgence of activism reminiscent of historical campus protests. The demonstrators have articulated a range of demands:

  • Immediate ceasefire in Gaza: Students are advocating for an end to the ongoing hostilities in the region, emphasizing the need for peace and stability.

  • End US military aid to Israel: A central demand is the cessation of all military assistance provided by the United States to Israel, with protesters highlighting concerns about the use of such aid in perpetuating conflict.

  • University divestment: Protesters are urging their universities to divest from companies involved in arms manufacturing and other entities that profit from the conflict in the Middle East. They argue for aligning university investments with principles of social justice and human rights.

  • Amnesty for protesters: Students and faculty facing disciplinary actions for their participation in protests are seeking amnesty, asserting their right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. They call for fair treatment and the protection of their academic and civil liberties.

    The protests have drawn a diverse array of participants, including students and faculty from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, underscoring the nuanced support for Palestinian causes on college campuses.

    As the protests continue to gather momentum, universities have implemented various strategies to address the situation:

    At Columbia University, escalating tensions prompted the university's president to call upon the NYPD to intervene, resulting in the arrest of over 100 demonstrators.

    Yale University saw more than 60 protesters detained by campus police for their refusal to disperse despite repeated warnings.

    At NYU, a significant police presence led to the arrest of 120 individuals after demonstrations persisted despite the university's request for dissolution.

    Columbia University has adopted a hybrid class format for the remainder of the semester to mitigate disruptions caused by ongoing protests.

    Meanwhile, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, made the decision to suspend all in-person classes temporarily due to demonstrators occupying an administrative building.

    These protests are indicative of a broader dissatisfaction with US foreign policy and perceptions of university involvement in global conflicts through investments and partnerships.

    Furthermore, they shed light on the delicate balance that campuses must strike between promoting free expression and ensuring the safety of their community.

    Literature PhD student Christian Deleon emphasized the importance of utilizing such spaces for protest and voicing opinions.

    However, Jewish student Sarah Borus from Columbia's Barnard College expressed frustration with what she perceives as her college administration and representatives equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism and suppressing dissenting voices.

    "My college administration, my representatives in Congress and my own president have continually acted as spokespeople for the Jewish community, equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism," Borus was quoted as saying in a TOI report. "They silence us, suspend us."

    Columbia University President Minouche Shafik's decision to involve the New York Police in dispersing protesters has sparked additional criticism.

    Columbia's vice president of public affairs, Ben Chang, reiterated the university's commitment to allowing protest while maintaining campus order and addressing concerns raised by Jewish students.

    "Students have the right to protest, but they are not allowed to disrupt campus life or harass and intimidate.
    We are acting on concerns we are hearing from our Jewish students," he said, adding that university officials were meeting "in good faith" with the demonstrators.

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    President Joe Biden, amidst criticism for his stance on Israel, condemned both "antisemitic protests" and those failing to understand the Palestinian situation.

    Former President Donald Trump, currently a Republican candidate in the 2024 election, characterized the campus protests as chaotic during his trial in New York.

    Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson expressed concern over the safety of Jewish students at Columbia University, labeling the protests as anti-Semitic and far from peaceful.

    The ongoing turmoil and its handling are challenging academic institutions' dedication to both free speech and safety.

    Simultaneously, political figures are wrestling with the wider ramifications of these protests on domestic and international policies regarding Israel and Palestine.

    As commencement season looms, how universities manage these protests may establish benchmarks for addressing future dissent.


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