Dozens arrested at Yale, NYU amid pro-Palestine protests in US universities

Dozens arrested at Yale, NYU amid pro-Palestine protests in US universities
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23 April 2024
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Columbia University has cancelled classes and dozens of protesters were arrested at Yale and New York University while the gates to Harvard Yard were closed to the public as some of the most prestigious US universities sought to diffuse campus tensions over Israel's war in Gaza.

The various actions on Monday followed the arrest last week of more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia's green.

In addition to the demonstrations at the Ivy League schools, pro-Palestinian encampments have come up on other campuses, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, and the University of Michigan.

The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel's invasion of Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel.

Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel makes them feel unsafe.

NY police arrest Columbia University students protesting Israel's Gaza war

'Complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza'

Tensions remained high on Monday at Columbia in New York City, where the campus gates were locked to anyone without a school ID and where protests broke out both on campus and outside.

A woman inside the campus gates led about two-dozen protesters on the street outside in a chant of, "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!" Meanwhile, a small group of pro-Israel counter demonstrators protested nearby.

Columbia University President Nemat Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on campus.

Protests have roiled many US college campuses since Israel's invasion of Gaza.

Prahlad Iyengar, an MIT graduate student studying electrical engineering, was among about two dozen students who set up a tent encampment on the school's Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus on Sunday evening. They are calling for a ceasefire and are protesting what they describe as MIT's "complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza," he said.

"MIT has not even called for a ceasefire, and that’s a demand we have for sure," Iyengar said.

He also said MIT has been sending out confusing rules about protests.

"We're out here to demonstrate that we reserve the right to protest. It’s an essential part of living on a college campus," Iyengar said.

Stand-off continues

The latest developments came ahead of the Monday evening start of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

The protest encampment sprung up at Columbia on Wednesday, the same day that Shafik faced bruising criticism at a congressional hearing from Republicans who said she hadn't done enough to fight antisemitism. Two other Ivy League presidents resigned months ago following widely criticized testimony they gave to the same committee.

In her statement Monday, Shafik said the Middle East conflict is terrible and that she understands that many are experiencing deep moral distress.

Several students at Columbia and its sister school, Barnard College, said they were suspended for taking part in last week's protests, including Barnard student Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Democratic US Representative Ilhan Omar.

At Yale, police officers arrested about 45 protesters and charged them with misdemeanor trespassing, said Officer Christian Bruckhart, a New Haven police spokesperson.

Protesters set up tents on Beinecke Plaza on Friday and demonstrated over the weekend, calling on Yale to end any investments in defense companies that do business with Israel.

Nadine Cubeisy, a Yale student and one of the protest's organisers, said it was disturbing that "this university that I'm going to, that I contribute to and that my friends give money to is using that money to fund violence."

School officials said they spoke with protesters over several hours and gave them until the end of the weekend to leave Beinecke Plaza. The said they again warned protesters on Monday morning and told them that they could face arrest and discipline, including suspension, before police moved in.

Last week, the University of Southern California took the unusual step of canceling a planned commencement speech by its 2024 valedictorian, who had publicly supported Palestinians. The university cited security concerns in a decision that was praised by some pro-Israel groups but criticised by free-speech advocates.

In New York, officers moved on the NYU crowd shortly after nightfall as hundreds of demonstrators for hours had defied university warnings that they faced consequences if they failed to vacate a plaza where they had gathered.

Video on social media showed police taking down tents in the protesters' encampment.

As demonstrators tussled with officers and chanted, "We will not stop, we will not rest. Disclose. Divest."

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