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Over 2,300 Arrested in Pro-Palestinian Protests
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 3, 2024

Pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses nationwide, including at NYU and The New School, have led to over 2,300 arrests. (AP/Ethan Swope)

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NEW YORK — Police ordered pro-Palestinian protesters to clear out of a tent encampment at New York University early Friday, a move that follows weeks of demonstrations and police confrontations at college campuses nationwide that have resulted in more than 2,300 arrests.

About a dozen protesters who refused police orders to leave were arrested and about 30 more left voluntarily, according to NYU spokesperson John Beckman. The action, which began at about 6 a.m. at the request of school officials, was conducted “to minimize the likelihood of injury” or the spread of disruption, Beckman said.

NYU Encampment Dismantled

Classes will proceed as scheduled on Friday, he said. A larger NYU encampment was dismantled on April 22 and more than 130 protesters were arrested.

Officers from the New York Police Department also moved in to clear a similar encampment at The New School in Greenwich Village on Friday. At least two buildings were closed and students were unable to get in for classes. Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry posted on X that The New School “has requested our assistance to disperse the illegal encampments inside their university center building and residence hall.”

Video posted by Daughtry showed dozens of helmeted officers massed outside the school on lower Fifth Avenue. No details on arrests at The New School were immediately released. Messages seeking comment were sent to the school.

More Protests in New York

Meanwhile, at the State University of New York at New Paltz, police said 133 people were arrested Thursday night as a pro-Palestinian encampment was broken up. University president Darrell P. Wheeler said administrators had hoped to avoid the removal, but it became necessary.

“The present encampment has increased in size since its inception,” Wheeler wrote in a message to the college community. “It is displacing other student groups who have equal rights to use that space.”

Officers wearing face shields and carrying batons dragged away protesters who were seated with their arms locked. A crowd chanted, “Let them go! Let them go!” according to videos posted on social media.

Protests in the South

At the University of Tennessee, nine people, including seven students and two people who weren’t affiliated with the school, were arrested Thursday night after a group gathered on the law school lawn in violation of university policy did not leave after a 9 p.m. deadline, the university said. All nine received citations and were released, Chancellor Donde Plowman said in a statement Friday morning. The students will face sanctions under the student code of conduct.

Earlier in the week, more than 100 people were taken into custody during a crackdown at Columbia University. The encampment at Columbia, set up on April 17, inspired a wave of similar encampments nationwide over the Israel-Hamas war.

One officer accidentally discharged his gun inside a Columbia’s Hamilton Hall while clearing out protesters camped inside Tuesday, authorities said. No one was injured, the NYPD said Thursday. He was trying to use the flashlight attached to his gun at the time and instead fired a single round that struck a frame on the wall.

58 Incidents Reported

The Associated Press has recorded at least 58 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the U.S. The arrests have taken place on the campuses of 44 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

Early Thursday, officers surged against a crowd of demonstrators at University of California, Los Angeles, ultimately taking at least 200 protesters into custody after hundreds defied orders to leave, some forming human chains as police fired flash-bangs to break up the crowds. Police tore apart a fortified encampment’s barricade of plywood, pallets, metal fences and dumpsters, then pulled down canopies and tents.

Like at UCLA, tent encampments of protesters calling on universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies they say support the war in Gaza have spread across other campuses nationwide in a student movement unlike any other this century.

Israel has branded the protests antisemitic, while Israel’s critics say it uses those allegations to silence opposition. Although some protesters have been caught on camera making antisemitic remarks or violent threats, protest organizers — some of whom are Jewish — call it a peaceful movement to defend Palestinian rights and protest the war.

President Joe Biden on Thursday defended the right of students to peaceful protest but decried the disorder of recent days.

Students Calling for an End to War

The demonstrations began at Columbia with students calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the Health Ministry there. Israel launched its offensive in Gaza after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, on Oct. 7 and took roughly 250 hostages in an attack on southern Israel.

On April 18, the NYPD cleared Columbia’s initial encampment. The demonstrators set up new tents and defied threats of suspension, and escalated their actions early Tuesday by occupying Hamilton Hall, an administration building that was similarly seized in 1968 by students protesting racism and the Vietnam War.

Roughly 20 hours later, officers stormed the hall. Video showed police with zip ties and riot shields streaming through a second-floor window. Police had said protesters inside presented no substantial resistance.

The confrontations at UCLA also played out over several days this week. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block told alumni on a call Thursday afternoon that the trouble started after a permitted pro-Israel rally was held on campus Sunday and fights broke out and “live mice” were tossed into the pro-Palestinian encampment later that day.

Administrators Response

In the following days, administrators tried to find a peaceful solution with members of the encampment and expected things to remain stable, Block said.

That changed late Tuesday, he said, when counterdemonstrators attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment. Campus administrators and police did not intervene or call for backup for hours. No one was arrested that night, but at least 15 protesters were injured.

By Wednesday, the encampment had become “much more of a bunker” and there was no other solution but to have police dismantle it, Block said. Officers on Thursday morning warned over loudspeakers that there would be arrests if the crowd did not disperse. Hundreds left voluntarily, while another 200-plus remained and were ultimately taken into custody.

Protest encampments at other schools across the U.S. have been cleared by police — resulting in more arrests — or closed voluntarily. But University of Minnesota officials reached an agreement with protesters not to disrupt commencements, and similar compromises have been made at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago, Rutgers University in New Jersey and Brown University in Rhode Island. Others have taken steps to hire extra security.

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