Demonstrations roil US campuses as protesters spar over Gaza conflict

AP , Monday 29 Apr 2024

Protests are roiling college campuses across the U.S. as upcoming graduation ceremonies are threatened by disruptive demonstrators, with students and others sparring over Israel's military offensive on Gaza and its mounting death toll.

gaza
People listen to a speaker during a pro-Palestinian encampment, advocating for financial disclosure and divestment from all companies tied to Israel and calling for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, inside Columbia University campus on Sunday, April 28, 2024, in New York. AP

 

Many campuses were largely quiet over the weekend as demonstrators stayed by tents erected as protest headquarters, although a few colleges saw forced removals and arrests. Many students are demanding their universities cut financial ties with Israel over its war on Gaza.

Protesters on both sides of the rancourous debate shouted and shoved each other during dueling demonstrations Sunday at the University of California, Los Angeles. The university stepped up security after “some physical altercations broke out among demonstrators,” Mary Osako, vice chancellor for UCLA Strategic Communications, said in a statement. There were no reports of arrests or injuries.

About 275 people were arrested on Saturday at various campuses including Indiana University at Bloomington, Arizona State University and Washington University in St. Louis. The number of arrests nationwide approached 900 since New York police removed a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia University and arrested more than 100 demonstrators on April 18.

The plight of students who have been arrested has become a central part of protests, with the students and a growing number of faculty demanding amnesty for protesters. At issue is whether the suspensions and legal records will follow students through their adult lives.

Faculty members at universities in California, Georgia and Texas have initiated or passed largely symbolic votes of no confidence in their leadership.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden “knows that there are very strong feelings” but would leave managing the protests to local authorities.

“People should have the ability to air their views and to share their perspectives publicly but it has to be peaceful,” Kirby said on ABC’s ”This Week.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in an interview that aired Sunday, called it “a dangerous situation” and placed the responsibility with college administrators.

“There’s also antisemitism, which is completely unacceptable. I’ve been shocked to see that in this country,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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