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Police clear pro-Palestinian camps at US universities

Police detained nearly 200 people at three US universities as they cleared pro-Palestinian encampments, in the latest campus clashes triggered by protests over Israel’s war against Hamas.

On the East Coast, police in Boston detained about 100 people while clearing a protest camp at Northeastern University, with social media posts showing security forces in riot gear and officers loading tents onto the back of a truck.

The action was taken after some protesters resorted to “virulent anti-Semitic slurs,’ Northeastern University said in a statement on social media platform X.

On the opposite side of the country, Arizona State University police arrested 69 people for trespassing after the group set up an “unauthorized encampment” on campus.

A protest camp set up at Northeastern University

Arizona State officials said a protest group, “most of whom were not ASU students, faculty or staff”, had set up a camp Friday and then ignored repeated orders to disperse.

And in the US heartland, police at Indiana University arrested 23 people as they cleared a campus protest camp, the Indiana Daily Student newspaper reported.

Police with shields, batons and other riot gear broke through a line of protesters who had linked arms, tackling those who did not move, the paper said.

Police clashed with protestors at Indiana University

Balancing act

The campus activists are calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas, as well as for colleges to sever ties with the country and with companies they say profit from the conflict.

The protests have posed a major challenge to university administrators who are trying to balance commitments to free expression with complaints that the rallies have veered into anti-Semitism and hate speech.

Police have carried out large-scale arrests at universities in recent days, at times using chemical irritants and tasers to disperse demonstrators.

Dozens of students remained encamped at the University of Pennsylvania, despite the college president ordering disbandment after what he said were “credible reports of harassing and intimidating conduct.”

Meanwhile, Columbia University in New York, where the protests originated, was relatively calm.

Officials there announced Friday that they would not be calling police back to campus after more than 100 people were arrested last week.

“To bring back the NYPD at this time would be counterproductive, further inflaming what is happening on campus, and drawing thousands to our doorstep who would threaten our community,” school leaders said in a statement, referring to the New York Police Department.

Columbia University was relatively calm as demonstrations continued

Canada saw its first campus protest camp spring up at McGill University.

The school in Montreal said such encampments, which are not permitted, increase “the potential for escalation and confrontation, as we have seen at some colleges throughout the US.”

Hamas militants staged an unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October that left around 1,170 people dead, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Palestinian militants also took roughly 250 people hostage. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,388 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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