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A Look at the Gaza War Protests That Have Emerged on U.S. College Campuses

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A Look at the Gaza War Protests That Have Emerged on U.S. College Campuses

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Associated Press – Student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have popped up on an increasing number of college campuses following last week’s arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University.

By Thursday, police in Boston and Los Angeles said they had arrested protesters at schools in those cities and at least one university announced that it had closed its campus. Protests on Wednesday on the campuses of at least two universities involved clashes with police, while another university shut down its campus for the rest of the week.

The students are calling for universities to separate themselves from any companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza—and in some cases, from Israel itself.

Protests on many campuses have been orchestrated by coalitions of student groups. The groups largely act independently, though students say they are inspired by peers at other universities.

Here is a look at protests on campuses in recent days.

Columbia University

Pro-Palestinian student protesters set up a tent encampment at the Ivy League university in New York last week. Police first tried to clear the encampment on Thursday, when they arrested more than 100 protesters. But the move backfired, acting as an inspiration for other students across the country and motivating protesters at Columbia to regroup.

University officials said early Wednesday that they were extending a deadline for protesters to clear out. They said the demonstrators had committed to removing a significant number of tents and agreed that only students would remain at the encampment. They also said they would make the encampment more welcoming by banning any discriminatory language or harassing messages. The encampment on the upper Manhattan campus appeared calm and a little smaller on Wednesday morning.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia on Wednesday to meet with Jewish students over concerns about antisemitism on college campuses. Mr. Johnson said Israel and Jewish students on campus will not stand alone. Protesters nearby said they could not hear him and he responded, “Enjoy your free speech.”

The University of Texas at Austin

Dozens of police officers and state troopers, including some on horseback and holding batons, forcefully arrested more than two dozen student protesters and a local news photographer at the University of Texas at Austin Wednesday after university officials and the governor called authorities.

Protesters said they had planned a walkout and march to the main campus lawn, where students would occupy the space and host events throughout the afternoon. But the university said in a statement that it would “not tolerate disruptions” like those at other campuses.

Fifty-seven people were jailed and charged with criminal trespass Wednesday following the protest, according to a spokeswoman for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. The Travis County Attorney’s Office received several cases resulting from the demonstration and reviewed them after defense attorneys expressed concerns, spokeswoman Diana Melendez said in a statement Thursday. The county attorney’s office and the court agreed there were deficiencies in the probable cause affidavits and ordered the release of those arrested, according to the statement. The office said it will continue to review all cases to “determine whether prosecution is factually and legally appropriate.”

Gov. Greg Abbott said on X that the protesters belong in jail, and that any student who joins what he called hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in the state should be expelled.

A photographer covering the demonstration for local Fox affiliate, Fox 7 Austin, was among those arrested after being caught in a push-and-pull between law enforcement and students. The station confirmed the arrest in its online story. Another journalist was knocked down in the mayhem and was seen bleeding before police helped him to emergency medical staff, who bandaged his head.

In a statement, University President Jay Hartzell said that peaceful protests within the university’s rules are acceptable but that breaking the rules and disrupting others’ ability to learn are not allowed.

“Our rules matter, and they will be enforced,” his statement said. “Our University will not be occupied.”

University of Southern California

The Los Angeles Police Department said more than 90 people were arrested Wednesday night during a protest at the University of Southern California for alleged trespassing. One person was arrested for alleged assault with a deadly weapon. LAPD Captain Kelly Muniz told reporters that there was an altercation in one part of the protest area, but she did not have specific details of the alleged assault. There were no reports of injuries. The university posted on X on Wednesday that it had closed campus and that police would arrest people who did not leave.

Earlier in the day police removed several tents, then got into a back-and-forth tent tugging match with protesters before falling back. At one point, USC police detained a man and put him in a vehicle. A crowd surrounded the car and chanted “Let him go!” and the officers eventually did so. The man waved at demonstrators to indicate they should return to the park.

The Ohio State University

Two pro-Palestinian students participating in a protest on campus were arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal trespassing, after “repeated warnings to be quiet,” said university spokesperson Ben Johnson.

About 50 protesters had gathered at a campus amphitheater to share stories about their connections to the Palestinian people before marching. While stopping at a building on the university’s medical campus, two individuals became “disruptive,” Mr. Johnson said. Per university policy, the students who were arrested will be referred to the student conduct office.

Harvard University

Trying to stay ahead of protests, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, locked most gates into its famous Harvard Yard ahead of classes Monday and limited access to those with school identification. The school also posted signs warning against setting up tents or tables on campus without permission. Those efforts did not stop protesters from setting up a camp with 14 tents Wednesday, which came after a rally against the university’s suspension of the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt

Protesters at the university used furniture, tents, chains and zip ties to block entrances to an academic and administrative building on Monday. Protesters chanted, “We are not afraid of you!” before officers in riot gear pushed into them at the building’s entrance, video shows. University officials closed the campus through this weekend, saying instruction would continue to be remote. They said in a statement Tuesday that students had occupied a second building and three students had been arrested. On Wednesday, officials said some unidentified people who were not students were also inside one of the occupied buildings. Humboldt is located about 300 miles north of San Francisco.

On Thursday, the university said protesters continued to occupy the two buildings on campus and it was making contingency plans, including possibly keeping campus closed beyond Sunday.

Emerson College

Boston Police said Thursday that 108 people were arrested at an encampment at Emerson College. Police said four officers suffered injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Those arrested were expected to appear in Boston Municipal Court.

On Tuesday, about 80 students and other supporters at Emerson College occupied a busy courtyard on the downtown Boston campus. College officials warned the students on Wednesday that some of the protesters were in violation of city ordinances, including by blocking a right-of-way and fire hydrants, and violating noise laws. The school said the alley where some protesters have set up tents is owned by the city, and Boston police have warned of imminent law enforcement action. The college said in a statement that campus police were offering escort services for students after officials received credible reports of some protesters engaging in “targeted harassment and intimidation of Jewish supporters of Israel.”

New York University

At New York University, an encampment set up by students swelled to hundreds of protesters earlier this week. Police on Wednesday said that 133 protesters had been taken into custody. They said all were released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges.

Emory University

Atlanta police and Georgia state troopers dismantled a camp on Emory University’s quadrangle Thursday morning, with Associated Press journalists counting at least 17 people detained.

University police had ordered several dozen demonstrators who set up tents on the campus early Thursday morning to leave, according to Emory spokeswoman Laura Diamond. She said in an email to The Associated Press that the group “trespassed” onto the private school.

“These individuals are not members of our community,” Ms. Diamond said. “They are activists attempting to disrupt our university as our students finish classes and prepare for finals.”

A long line of officers surrounded the encampment of about three dozen tents after 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, as protesters chanted slogans supporting Palestinians and opposing a public safety training center being built in Atlanta. The two movements are closely entwined in Atlanta, where there has been years of “Stop Cop City” activism that has included a fringe of anarchist attacks on property and the killing by state troopers of a protester who was occupying the site.

When officers in tactical gear began detaining people, some submitted, but others physically pushed back. Those who were detained were handcuffed with zip ties and loaded into a police transport van. Video shows officers at least once used an electrical stun gun on a protester who was handcuffed on the ground.

University of Michigan

An encampment at the center of the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor had grown to about 40 tents on Tuesday. Almost every student there wore a mask, which was handed to them when they entered. Student protesters declined to identify themselves to reporters, saying they feared retribution by the university. One student stood near the encampment passing out small flags of Israel, saying he did not want Jewish students walking through campus to only see the protesters.

University of Minnesota

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar attended a protest at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, hours after nine demonstrators were arrested when police took down an encampment in front of the library. Hundreds had rallied to demand their release. Ms. Omar’s daughter was among the protesters arrested at Columbia last week.

On Wednesday, more than 80 professors and assistant professors signed a letter calling on the University of Minnesota’s president to drop any charges, lift any ban on the arrestees’ presence on campus and to allow future encampments.

Northwestern University

Northwestern University hastily changed its student code of conduct Thursday morning to bar tents on its suburban Chicago campus as anti-war student activists set up an encampment similar to Pro-Palestinian demonstrations at colleges nationwide.

Groups including Jewish Voice for Peace and Educators for Justice in Palestine said the encampment on the Evanston campus was “a safe space for those who want to show their support of the Palestinian people.” The students want the university to divest from Israel, among other things.

Dozens participated as University President Michael Schill issued an email saying the university had enacted an “interim addendum” to its student code to bar tents, among other things, and warned of disciplinary actions including suspension, expulsion and criminal charges.

“The goal of this addendum is to balance the right to peacefully demonstrate with our goal to protect our community, to avoid disruptions to instruction and to ensure university operations can continue unabated,” Mr. Schilling said.

No arrests had been made by Thursday afternoon.

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