Police clear pro-Palestinian sit-in at top Paris university

AFP , Friday 3 May 2024

Police entered Paris' Sciences Po university on Friday to remove dozens of students staging a pro-Palestinian sit-in in the entrance hall, AFP journalists saw, as protests fire political debate about Israel's war on Gaza.

Sciences Po
Protesters are escorted away by French gendarmes during the evacuation of a pro-Palestinian sit-in in the entrance hall of the Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po Paris) in Paris on May 3, 2024. AFP


One student told reporters "around 50 students were still inside the rue Saint-Guillaume site" when police entered.

Bastien, 22, told AFP he and other protesters had been peacefully brought out in groups of 10 by officers.

Another, Lucas, studying for a master's degree, said "some students were dragged and others gripped by the head or shoulders".

Administrators had closed Sciences Po's main buildings on Friday in response to the sit-in and called for remote classes instead.

They claimed "around 70 to 80 people" were occupying the foyer of the central Paris building.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal's office said such protests would be dealt with using "total rigour", adding that 23 university sites had been "evacuated" on Thursday.

Students from the university's Palestine Committee had earlier told reporters they faced a "disproportionate" response from police, who had blocked access to the site before moving in.

They also complained of a lack of "medical assistance" for seven students who had started a hunger strike "in solidarity with Palestinian victims".



Sciences Po, widely considered France's top political science school, has seen student protests at its sites across the country against Israel's war on Gaza and the ensuing humanitarian crisis caused by Israel's siege on the territory.

Protests have been slow to spread to other prominent universities, unlike in the United States -- where demonstrations at around 40 facilities have at times spiralled into violent crackdowns by police and mass arrests.

But demonstrations have so far been more peaceful in France, home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel and the US, and to Europe's largest Muslim community.

The University of California, Los Angeles, announced that Friday's classes would be held remotely after police cleared a protest camp there and arrested more than 200 people.

Sciences Po administration took the same step for its Paris student body of between 5,000 and 6,000.

Protesters occupied the entrance hall in a "peaceful sit-in" following a debate on the Middle East with administrators on Thursday morning that their Palestine Committee dubbed "disappointing".

The university's interim administrator, Jean Basseres, refused student demands to "investigate" Science Po's ties with Israeli institutions.

'Not true you can't talk'

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 34,596 people in the Palestinian territory, mostly women and children.

Outside the Sorbonne University, a few hundred metres (yards) from Sciences Po in central Paris, members of the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) were setting up a "dialogue table" on Friday.

"We want to prove that it's not true that you can't talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," UEJF president Samuel Lejoyeux told broadcaster Radio J.

"To do that, we have to sideline those who single out Jewish students as complicit in genocide," he added.

In the northeastern city of Lille, the ESJ journalism school was blocked off, an AFP reporter saw.

Students at the city's nearby branch of Sciences Po had their identities checked before they were allowed in via a back entrance to sit exams.

Around 100 students had occupied a lecture hall at Science Po's Lyon branch late on Thursday, while a blockade at a university site in nearby Saint-Etienne was cleared on Thursday morning by police.

*This story has been edited by Ahram Online

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