American Rust Belt universities protests against Israeli war on Gaza overlooked

Ahram Online , Wednesday 5 Jun 2024

Student movements at prestigious elite universities in coastal American cities have dominated news coverage of protests against the Israeli war on Gaza. In contrast, according to a report published by The Intercept, working-class public universities in the Rust Belt and Appalachian cities did not receive coverage commensurate with the size of their protests and the harsher crackdown they faced.

Pro-Palestinian protesters walk from Columbia University down to Hunter College as protests at area
Pro-Palestinian protesters walk from Columbia University down to Hunter College as protests at area universities and colleges continue on May 06, 2024 in New York City. AFP


“News outlets gave daily coverage to Columbia University after administrators called in the New York City Police Department to arrest the student protesters”, said the Intercept.

The mainstream media largely ignored the protests that swept campuses across the Rust Belt and into Appalachia, where students from working -- and middle-class backgrounds -- have led protests at the University of Pittsburgh, Case Western Reserve University, and Ohio State University.

According to The Intercept, student demonstrators held protests for Gaza in 11 out of 13 Appalachian states and every state in the Rust Belt. Hundreds of the more than 2,900 student protesters arrested since the encampments started this spring hailed from inland schools.

The focus on elite, coastal universities has overshadowed the breadth of the brutal police crackdowns and impunity for attacks on pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Police deployed militarized tanks and riot gear against students at some of the more than 50 schools that saw raids. Demonstrators were tasered, thrown down stairs, and left with broken limbs and teeth, The Intercept revealed.

Protesters and professors at schools like Arizona State, University of Georgia, and the University of Texas at Austin were tackled, pepper sprayed, and shot with rubber bullets. Police fired a gun inside a building at Columbia, and cops stood back while the pro-Israel protesters launched fireworks into the encampment at UCLA.

Contractors hired to paint over a pro-Palestine mural at Case Western Reserve sprayed paint directly onto student protesters who tried to block them from covering the mural. University President Eric Kaler claimed that demonstrators had added antisemitic language to protest art on campus and that the contractors were directed to paint them over.

At Ohio State, police attacked a crowd of protesters during a Muslim prayer at the Gaza encampment and reportedly choked and pushed students, trying to rip off some of the students’ hijabs.

"This violence against protesters in Rust Belt states has gone largely unrecognized," said The Intercept.

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