More than 100 arrested at US university pro-Palestinian protests

AFP , Thursday 25 Apr 2024

More than 100 people were arrested Wednesday at two universities in California and Texas, officials said, after pro-Palestinian protests erupted across US campuses this week.

Three people are detained by police as pro-Palestinian students protest the Israel-Hamas war on the
Three people are detained by police as pro-Palestinian students protest the Israel-Hamas war on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on April 24, 2024. AFP

 

Demonstrations flared at the University of Southern California's (USC) Los Angeles campus, where 93 people were arrested for trespassing, and at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin, where 34 were arrested, according to authorities.

The tense standoffs were among the latest on-campus confrontations between law enforcement, including police in riot gear, and banner-wielding students outraged at the mounting death toll in Israel's war on Gaza.

USC said on social media site X at around midnight that the protest had ended and the campus would remain "closed until further notice."

"Students, faculty, staff, and people with business on campus may enter with proper identification," the university said.

Los Angeles police officers went to the campus on Wednesday afternoon and "assisted the university in effecting trespass arrests" when protesters refused to leave, Captain Kelly Muniz told reporters.

The LAPD said there were no reports of injuries and patrols would remain in the area on Thursday.

 

Free speech

The spreading pro-Palestinian protests began at Columbia University in New York, where dozens of arrests were made last week after university authorities called in police to quell a protest encampment that some Jewish students said was threatening and anti-Semitic.

Demonstrators, including many Jewish students, have disavowed instances of anti-Semitism and criticized officials equating it with opposition to Israel.

As students and other demonstrators have camped out on school quads, occupied university buildings and disrupted campus activities, universities this week have affirmed their rights to free speech and peaceful protest.

But pro-Israel supporters and others worried about campus safety have also pointed to anti-Semitic incidents and allege that campuses are encouraging intimidation and hate speech.

House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters at Columbia on Wednesday that the demonstrations "place a target on the backs of Jewish students in the United States," adding that the National Guard could be brought in if the protests were not contained soon.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden denounced "blatant anti-Semitism" that has "no place on college campuses."

But the White House has also said that the president supports freedom of expression on US campuses.

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