Police break up pro-Palestinian camp at Amsterdam University as campus protests spread to Europe

AP , Tuesday 7 May 2024

Police arrested about 125 activists as they broke up a pro-Palestinian demonstration camp at the University of Amsterdam early Tuesday, as protests that have roiled campuses in the United States spread into Europe.

Police officers
Police officers arrest a participant during the clearance of a pro-Palestinian protest at the campus of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on Roeterseiland. AFP

 

Police in the Dutch capital said in a statement on the social media platform X that their action was “necessary to restore order” after protests turned violent. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Video from the scene aired by national broadcaster NOS showed police using a mechanical digger to push down barricades and officers wielding batons and shields moving in to end the demonstration, beating some of the protesters and pulling down tents.

Protesters formed barricades from wooden pallets and bicycles, NOS reported.

Scores of demonstrators occupied a small island at the university on Monday, urging Amsterdam universities to break academic ties with Israel because of its offensive on Gaza.

There have also been demonstrations in recent days at campuses in France and the United Kingdom.

Photos from the Amsterdam campus Tuesday morning showed tents, banners and food along with piles of cobblestones that had been pulled up from the street.

Before police moved in, scuffles broke out Monday night between two rival groups of activists.

Police said in a statement that they cleared the makeshift camp after the protesters refused repeated orders to leave.

“The protest in this form created a very unsafe situation, partly due to the barricades that prevented emergency services from entering the site. In the event of a disaster, the activists themselves could become stuck on the site,” police said.

They said the campus was calm Tuesday morning, but officers remained in the area.

Calls to the university went unanswered early Tuesday and the university did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In Finland, dozens of protesters from the Students for Palestine solidarity group set up an encampment outside the main building at the University of Helsinki. Demonstrators said they would stay at the site in central Helsinki until the university, which is Finland’s largest academic institution, cuts academic ties with Israeli universities.

In Denmark, students set up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Copenhagen. About 45 tents were erected on the lawn outside the campus of the Faculty of Social Sciences, known as CSS. The faculty sits in an old municipal hospital in the heart of the Danish capital.

The university's administration said students can protest on campus but called on them to respect the rules on its grounds. "Seek dialogue, not conflict and make room for perspectives other than your own,” the administrators said in a statement posted on X.

It said the administration "cannot and must not express an opinion on behalf of university employees and students about political matters, including about the ongoing conflict” in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

On their Facebook page, members of the activist group Students Against the Occupation said their attempts to talk to the administration over the past two years about withdrawing the school's investments in companies with ties to activities in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have been in vain.

"We can no longer be satisfied with cautious dialogue that does not lead to concrete action,” the group said.

In Paris, student groups called for gatherings in solidarity with Palestinians later Tuesday.

On Friday, French police peacefully removed dozens of students from a building at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences Po, after they had gathered in support of Palestinians.

On Tuesday, students at the prestigious institution, which counts French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal and President Emmanuel Macron among its alumni, were seen entering the campus unobstructed to take exams as police stood at the entrances.

Protests took place last week at some other universities nationwide, including in Lille and Lyon. The Prime Minister’s Office said police had been requested to remove students from 23 sites on French campuses.

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