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Roving Periscope: US police arrest hundreds, clear varsity campuses of Gaza protesters

Roving Periscope: US police arrest hundreds, clear varsity campuses of Gaza protesters

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: A day after “occupying” Hamilton Hall at Columbia University and the authorities rejecting their demand for food and water, the so-called pro-Palestinian “students,” starved and exhausted, meekly cleared the way for New York police which stormed the premises on Wednesday and arrested many, the media reported.

Hundreds of New York City police officers stormed the Columbia University campus, taking many people into custody, in the latest escalation in Gaza protests that have swept campuses across the United States, the reports said.

Live television images showed police entering the university in Upper Manhattan, the epicenter of student protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, in which more than 34,500 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, 2023. The protestors ignore the cause of the conflict—that day, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, killed nearly 1,200 Israelis, and carried with them some 250 hostages to the Gaza Strip.

After entering the site, some officers approached Hamilton Hall, the administrative building, as the management suspended students for refusing to meet the deadline. “We’re clearing it out,” police in a riot unit yelled as they marched up to the barricaded entrance to the building and climbed it up, while dozens more officers moved on to the main protest camp.

Shortly afterward, officers were seen leading nearly 40 protesters, still raising pro-Palestinian slogans, their hands tied behind their backs with plastic zip ties, to police vehicles outside the campus gates.

The move to clear the protest came 56 years since police swept into Hamilton Hall to end a 1968 protest by students against racism and the Vietnam War.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and city police officials alleged the Hamilton Hall takeover had been instigated by “outside agitators” who lacked any affiliation with Columbia and were known to law enforcement for provoking lawlessness. Some student protesters were not fully aware of the “external actors” in their midst, they said.

“After the university learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded, we were left with no choice,” the university spokesperson said, adding that its public safety personnel had been forced out of the building and one facilities worker “threatened”.

“The decision to reach out to the NYPD (New York Police Department) was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing,” the statement said. “We have made it clear that the life of campus cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violate the rules and the law.”

Meanwhile, demonstrations at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) took a violent turn, with confrontations between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israeli counter-demonstrators who had entered from outside the campus.

Columbia’s protests began on April 17, inspiring demonstrations that now stretch from California in the west to Massachusetts in the east, and come as universities prepare for end-of-year graduation ceremonies.

More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested over the last two weeks on campuses in states including Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana, California, and New Jersey, some after confrontations with police in riot gear.

At the University of Southern Florida in Tampa on Tuesday, police used tear gas on students who set up a Gaza solidarity camp and arrested two people.

Sixteen people were arrested at the University of New Mexico as police forcefully removed pro-Palestine protesters occupying the college’s student union building. A university spokesperson said five of those arrested were students of the University of New Mexico, while the 11 others had no connection with the institution.


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