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Nationwide university protests lead to mass arrests

Christina House
Pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA

Colleges worldwide have begun enforcing policies after protests over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have increased on campuses.
In light of recent events occurring in Gaza, many people have begun protesting in favor of Palestine, but university students in particular have assembled to express their beliefs. Columbia University, Rutgers University and the University of Minnesota are among many universities that have acquired encampments of students expressing their shared beliefs.
Despite the rights to peaceably assemble and protest, universities have combated the students’ attempts and have started to enforce penalties for students who remain in the encampments, which many believe is an infringement of constitutional rights.
While some of the protests have remained peaceful, several, including at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have escalated into violence and destructive actions such as setting off fireworks in encampments near wood planks and physical altercations between pro-palestinian and counter-protesters.
Other issues that arose included protesters blocking students from going to class, creating Anti-Jew zones, burning Israeli and American flags and replacing American flags on campuses to Palestinian ones.
The student protestors on Columbia University campus had three goals in mind when they initiated their protests: divesting from companies supporting Israel, more openness in the university’s finances, and official pardons for all students and staff who have been punished as a result of the protesting. They placed Hamilton Hall, the center for student protesting since the 1960s, as their protesting spot. Students then barricaded Hamilton Hall and unrolled a banner reading “Hind’s Hall,” as students renamed it in the honor of a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed by the Israeli military. Columbia administrators, after enforcing suspension threats, have involved police in order to remove students from their protesting spot on campus. There were dozens of arrests, many of the detained students being bound by zip ties as they were loaded into buses. Participants of the Hamilton Hall protests have been arrested under the crime of vandalism and trespassing. Columbia administration stated that participants are also likely to face academic expulsion.
The counter protesters, mainly Jewish students, want to end the protests and specifically the antisemitism that has sparked because of the protests. They describe how they feel targeted and unsafe in their schools because of the protests.
In UCLA, fighting between the pro-palestinian and pro-israeli sudents broke out when counter-protesters attempted to break down the wooden planks and beat several pro-palestinian protesters. Amid the fighting, mace spray was used as well as fireworks directed into the crowds. The violence escalated to the point where many students on both sides left with many wounds. The police eventually got in between the fighting students, ending the violence.
The protests have also reached the University of Southern California (USC). The unfolding arguments began when valedictorian Asna Tabassum’s speech was canceled after allegations of liking and sharing anti-Israeli posts on her Instagram page were made. Following these protests by the students, USC decided to cancel the main commencement ceremony late April. The school instead announced a replacement ‘Trojan Family Graduate Celebration’ that took place in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and was given several safety measures to ensure no disruptions take place. Tensions at the university are high, which have made Jewish and Muslim students fear their safety as the end of the school year draws near.

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