Gaza war protests have emerged across US college campuses

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Student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have popped up on an increasing number of college campuses following last week’s arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University.

The students are calling for universities to separate themselves from any companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza — and in some cases from Israel itself.

Protests on many campuses have been orchestrated by coalitions of student groups. The groups largely act independently, though students say they’re inspired by peers at other universities.

A look at protests on campuses in recent days:

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Pro-Palestinian student protesters set up a tent encampment at the Ivy League university in New York last week. Police first tried to clear the encampment on April 18, when they arrested more than 100 protesters. But the move backfired, inspiring students across the country and motivating protesters at Columbia to regroup.

Earlier this week, the Ivy League school, where Monday is set to be the last day of classes, switched to hybrid learning. Commencement is set for May 15.

Students said Friday afternoon that they had reached an impasse with administrators and intended to continue their encampment until their demands are met. Columbia officials had earlier said that negotiations were showing progress. Despite dozens of journalists on campus and scores of police officers outside the gates, an unassuming spring day unfolded Friday with students sitting on the library’s steps or grabbing a quick bite while soon-to-be-graduates posed for photos in their powder-blue gowns.

Columbia’s president, Minouche Shafik, faced a significant — but largely symbolic — rebuke from faculty Friday but retains the support of trustees, who have the power to hire or fire the president. A report by the university senate’s executive committee, which represents faculty, found Shafik and her administration took “many actions and decisions that have harmed Columbia University,” including calling in police. Following the report, the senate passed a resolution that included a task force to monitor how the administration would make changes going forward.

Hundreds of counterprotesters gathered on the streets outside Columbia on Friday morning, many holding Israeli flags and chanting for the hostages being held by Hamas and other militants to be released.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The University of Southern California canceled its main stage graduation ceremony set for May 10 after its campus was roiled by protests. The university already canceled a commencement speech by the school’s pro-Palestinian valedictorian, citing safety concerns. The Los Angeles Police Department said more than 90 people were arrested Wednesday night on charges of trespassing during a protest at the university. One person was arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. There were no reports of injuries. The university said Wednesday that it had closed campus and police would arrest people who did not leave. Friday was the last day of classes.

THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

Police clashed with protesters at Ohio State University in Columbus, just hours after they gathered Thursday evening. Those who refused to leave after warnings were arrested and charged with criminal trespass, said university spokesperson Benjamin Johnson, citing rules barring overnight events. Of 36 people arrested, Johnson said Friday that 16 were students and 20 were not affiliated with the university. The school’s commencement is set for May 5.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

About 50 students at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., set up a tent encampment on the school’s University Yard on Thursday. Later in the day, a group of Georgetown University students and professors staged their own protest walkout and marched to the George Washington campus to join them. The protesters are demanding that the university divest from Israel and lift a suspension against a prominent pro-Palestinian student group.

The university’s last day of classes before final exams is set for Monday and commencement is scheduled for May 19. Because of the noise generated by the protests, the university said it would move law school finals to another building from the one where they had originally been scheduled.

The university said the protesters must remove tents and disperse by 7 p.m.

CALIFORNIA STATE POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY, HUMBOLDT

University officials extended the closure of the campus until May 10 — the end of the semester — saying instruction would continue to be remote, after protesters at the university in northern California used furniture, tents, chains and zip ties to block entrances to an academic and administrative building on Monday. Commencement is scheduled for May 11.

Officials said in a statement Tuesday that students had occupied a second building and three students had been arrested. On Wednesday, officials said some unidentified people who were not students were also inside one of the occupied buildings. On Thursday, the university said protesters continued to occupy the two buildings.

A dean at the school, Jeff Crane, suggested during the meeting that the university form a committee that would include students to do a deep dive into the school’s investments. Crane also suggested faculty and students continue meeting every 24 hours to keep an open line of communication. The sides have yet to announce an agreement.

The school’s senate of faculty and staff demanded the university’s president resign in a no-confidence vote Thursday, citing the decision to call police in to remove the barricaded students Monday.

On Friday, the university released a statement responding to questions from those occupying the buildings. The statement said there will be consequences for actions that violate policy or law, but officials would take into account actions by any students who choose to evacuate the occupied buildings and support efforts to clear them. It did not say the charges faced by those arrested would be dropped.

The administration also offered protesters a 5 p.m. deadline to leave and “not be immediately arrested.” But that deadline passed and the university did not immediately respond to a message seeking an update or provide information on what they planned to do next.

NEW YORK UNIVERSITY

An encampment set up by students at NYU swelled to hundreds of protesters earlier this week. Police on Wednesday said that 133 protesters had been taken into custody. They said all were released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. Commencement is set for May 15.

EMORY UNIVERSITY

At Emory University in Atlanta, where Atlanta police and Georgia state troopers had dismantled a camp on the school’s quadrangle, the school president on Friday said in an email that some of the videos of a clash between police and people on the campus “are shocking” and that he is “horrified that members of our community had to experience and witness such interactions.”

School officials said 20 of the 28 people arrested were “Emory community members.”

Video circulated widely on social media shows two women who identified themselves as professors being detained, with one of them slammed to the ground by one officer as a second officer then pushes her chest and face onto a concrete sidewalk. In a separate incident Thursday evening, some protesters pinned police officers against the glass doors of the Candler School of Theology on the campus and threw objects at the officers, Emory’s president said.

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Northwestern University changed its student code of conduct Thursday morning to bar tents on its suburban Chicago campus as student activists set up an encampment.

University President Michael Schill issued an email saying the university had enacted an “interim addendum” to its student code to bar tents, among other things, and warned of disciplinary actions including suspension, expulsion and criminal charges.

“The goal of this addendum is to balance the right to peacefully demonstrate with our goal to protect our community, to avoid disruptions to instruction and to ensure university operations can continue unabated,” Schilling said.

The university’s commencement is scheduled for June 9.

FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

A few dozen protesters set up tents and occupied a building Thursday at the Fashion Institute of Technology, part of the public State University of New York system. Protesters sat on the floor or milled around, many wearing face masks and kaffiyehs. Other protesters outside the building held signs and Palestinian flags. They refused to speak to a reporter. Around a dozen protesters spent the night in tents and sleeping bags inside a campus building. The institute’s museum, which is located in the building where the demonstrators set up camp, was closed Friday.

The school’s commencement was still scheduled for May 22 and May 23.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY BLOOMINGTON

After an encampment was set up at Indiana University Bloomington, police with shields and batons shoved into a line of protesters linked arm-in-arm Thursday afternoon. Videos posted to social media appear to show the protest continuing after law enforcement stopped making arrests.

In an update Friday, the university police said 34 people were arrested. Public information officer Hannah Skibba said charges include trespassing, resisting law enforcement and battery on a public safety official. One officer sustained “minor injuries.” Protests continued Friday, one day before the last day of classes. The university’s commencement is scheduled for May 4.

Jeffrey Kehr, chief deputy prosecutor for Monroe County, said in an email that those arrested were released on their own recognizance and the office will “examine all the reports we receive and any relevant footage to determine what, if any, charges are appropriate.”

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

A small but growing protest encampment remained in place early Friday on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A statement issued by the school said officials were “closely monitoring” the encampment, which had started on Thursday, and had not received any reports of threatening or violent behavior by the protesters. However, they warned that protests or speech that violates the university’s policies, disrupts its business, or causes an “intimidating, hostile, or violent environment” would not be tolerated. The school’s commencement is scheduled to take place between May 18 and 20.

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

In Gainesville, Florida, home to the University of Florida, protesters were warned Friday that students could face suspension and banishment for three years, and employees could be fired, if they violated rules including camping, using bullhorns, protesting inside buildings or possessing weapons. Around 50 people have been protesting on campus since Wednesday.

Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis directed the state’s universities to make it easier for out-of-state students facing antisemitism and other religious harassment in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war to transfer to Florida campuses.

The Republican governor’s administration last fall also ordered state universities to ban a pro-Palestinian student organization, Students for Justice in Palestine, from campuses, saying it illegally backs Hamas militants who attacked Israel. The group has challenged that decision in federal court.

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

Protesters at Arizona State University pitched tents, including some that police dismantled, and at least three people were arrested Friday. A television news report put the number of protesters in the dozens and video showed people waving flags and holding signs reading “Free Palestine.”

University and Tempe city police representatives did not immediately answer emails asking about arrests, injuries or the size of the crowd.

A university spokesperson, Elena Bras, issued a statement that said “unapproved encampments” were prohibited on campus, and failure to comply would be grounds for arrest for trespassing.


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