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Home / News / Arrests made at US university pro-Palestine protests

Arrests made at US university pro-Palestine protests

Renewed confrontations between police and students opposed to Israel’s war in Gaza continued, raising questions about forceful methods being used to shut down protests that have intensified since mass arrests at Columbia University last week.

Over the past two days, law enforcement at the behest of college administrators have deployed tasers and tear gas against students protesters at Atlanta’s Emory University, activists say, while officers wearing riot gear and mounted on horseback engaged with demonstrations at the University of Texas in Austin.

Prosecutors dropped charges against 46 of the 60 people taken into custody at the University of Texas, citing “deficiencies in the probable cause affidavits”.

At Columbia University, the epicentre of the US protest movement, university officials are locked in a stalemate with students over the removal of a tent encampment set up two weeks ago as a protest against the Israeli offensive.

Other universities appear determined to prevent similar, long-running demonstrations to take root, opting to work with police to shut them down quickly and in some cases, with force.

Police detained 28 people on Emory University’s campus

Overall, nearly 550 arrests have been made in the last week across major US universities in relation to protests over Gaza, according to a Reuters tally.

University authorities said the demonstrations are often unauthorised and called on police to clear them.

Read more: Pro-Palestinian protests spread across US campuses

At Emory University, police detained 28 people on its Atlanta campus, the university said, after protesters began erecting a tent encampment in an attempt to emulate a symbol of vigilance employed by protesters at Columbia University and elsewhere.

The local chapter of the activist group Jewish Voice for Peace said officers used tear gas and tasers to dispense the demonstration and take some protesters into custody.

Atlanta police acknowledged using “chemical irritants” but denied using rubber bullets.

Video broadcast on FOX 5 Atlanta showed a melee breaking out between officers and some protesters, with officers using what appeared to be a stun gun to subdue a person and others wrestling other protesters to the ground and leading them away.

“Our primary goal today was clearing the quad of a disruptive encampment while holding individuals accountable to the law,” Cheryl Elliott, Emory’s vice president for public safety, said in a statement.

The Georgia office of the NAACP questioned what it called the “apparent use of excessive force” against people exercising free speech.

“The use of force should only be considered as an absolute last resort and must be proportionate to the threat posed,” Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs said in a letter.

93 people were arrested at the University of Southern California

Similar scenarios unfolded on the New Jersey campus of Princeton University where officers cleared a newly formed encampment, video footage on social media showed.

Boston police earlier forcibly removed a pro-Palestinian encampment set up by Emerson College, arresting more than 100 people, media accounts and police said.

At the University of Southern California, where 93 people were arrested at the Los Angeles campus on Wednesday, administrators cancelled the main 10 May graduation ceremony, saying newly required security measures would have placed excessive delays on crowd control.

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union condemned the arrest of protesters and urged authorities to respect their free speech rights.

But some Republicans in Congress have accused university administrators of allowing Jewish students to be harassed, putting increasing pressure on schools to tightly control any demonstrations and to block any semi-permanent encampment.

US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said his department was closely monitoring the protests, including what he called “very alarming reports of antisemitism”.

In response, activist groups have strongly denied that the protests are antisemitic.

Their aim is to pressure universities from divesting from companies that contribute to the Israeli military actions in Gaza, they said.

Hundreds of pro-Israel demonstrators staged a counter protest outside Columbia University

However, protest leaders have acknowledged that hateful rhetoric has been directed at Jewish students but insist that people who tried to infiltrate and malign their movement are responsible for any harassment.

Outside Columbia University, hundreds of conservative pro-Israel demonstrators staged a counter protest to the students, marching on the streets circling the campus, waving and draped in Israeli and US flags.

Columbia University retreated in a statement from a midnight (5am Irish time) deadline for pro-Palestinian protesters to abandon an encampment.

“The talks have shown progress and are continuing as planned,” the office of Columbia University president Minouche Shafik said.

“We have our demands; they have theirs,” it added.

The statement denied that New York City police were invited on the campus.

“This rumour is false,” it said.

The university already tried to shut the protest down by force.

On 18 April, Ms Shafik took the unusual move of asking police to enter the campus, angering many rights groups, students and faculty.

More than 100 people were arrested and the tents were removed from the main lawn.

But within a few days, the encampment was back in place.

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