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Police Arrest Over 40 as They Clear Pro-Palestinian Protest Camps at Penn, MIT and Arizona
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By Associated Press
Published 3 weeks ago on
May 10, 2024

Police arrest over 40 as pro-Palestinian protest camps are cleared at Penn, MIT, and Arizona. Demonstrators face charges as tensions rise on campuses. (AP/Jessica Griffin)

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Police made more than 40 arrests as pro-Palestinian protest encampments were dismantled Friday at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hours after police tear-gassed demonstrators and took down a similar camp at the University of Arizona.

The dismantling at Penn came around 5:30 a.m., as campus and Philadelphia police moved in to remove protesters from an encampment that had been in place for more than two weeks. School officials said protesters were given warnings and the chance to leave without being detained. About 33 people, including students and faculty members, were among those arrested without incident and charged with defiant trespass, the school said.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, video showed police roaming through the MIT encampment. Police in riot gear arrived around 4 a.m., encircled the camp and gave protesters about 15 minutes to leave. Ten students who remained were arrested, the university’s president said. A crowd outside the camp began gathering and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans but were dispersed by 6 a.m.

At the University of Arizona in Tucson, campus police in riot gear fired tear gas late Thursday at protesters before tearing down an encampment that included wood and plastic barriers on campus. In statement, the university said the encampment violated school policy but did not say whether any protesters had been arrested.

“A structure made from wooden pallets and other debris was erected on campus property after 5 p.m. in violation of the policy,” the school said in a statement. “University officials issued warnings to remove the encampment and disperse. The warnings were ignored.”

The school also said that police vehicles were spiked, and that rocks and water bottles thrown at officers and university staff.

Escalating Tensions

Tensions have ratcheted up in standoffs with protesters on campuses across the United States and in Europe. Some colleges cracked down immediately, while others have tolerated the demonstrations. Some have begun to lose patience and call in the police over concerns about disruptions to campus life and safety.

The protest movement began nearly three weeks ago at Columbia University in New York City. It has since swept college campuses nationwide, with demonstrators generally seeking to draw attention to the deaths from the Israel-Hamas war or calling for their schools to stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 72 instances since April 18 in which arrests were made at U.S. campus protests. More than 2,800 people have been arrested at 56 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from schools and law enforcement agencies.

MIT President’s Response

The move at MIT came several days after police first attempted to clear the camp, only to see protesters storm past barriers and restore the encampment, which includes about a dozen tents in the heart of the campus in Cambridge.

Before removing the encampment, MIT earlier in the week had started suspending dozens of students, meaning they wouldn’t be able to take part in academic activities or commencement.

Protesters insisted the move would not stop them from demanding that MIT end all ties to the Israeli military. They encampment had been up for at least weeks and especially angered Jewish students, who have held counterprotests nearby.

“This is only going to make us stronger. They can’t arrest the movement,” said Quinn Perian, an undergraduate student at MIT and organizer for MIT Jews for Ceasefire. “We are going to continue and won’t back down until MIT agrees to cut ties with the Israeli military. MIT would rather arrest and suspend some students than they would end their complicity with the genocide going in Gaza.”

MIT President Sally Kornbluth, working to strike a balance between recognizing the suffering in Gaza and concerns about the “safety of our community,” had warned Monday the encampment would have to be removed.

In a letter confirming Friday’s arrests, she wrote that her responsibility is “to make sure that the campus is physically safe and functioning for everyone … and that everyone feels free to express their views.” The encampment, she wrote, “increasingly made it impossible to meet all these obligations.”

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