Israel-Hamas war protesters and police clash on Texas campus, Columbia University begins suspensions

Israel-Hamas war protesters and police clash on Texas campus, Columbia University begins suspensions



Pro-Palestinian protests have swept across U.S. college campuses, resulting in dozens of arrests at prestigious institutions like Columbia University, New York University, and Yale. These demonstrations are fueled by tensions surrounding the Israel-Hamas war and its escalating death toll. As the academic year draws to a close, universities grapple with striking a balance between free expression and maintaining safe and inclusive campuses.


At Columbia University, over 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on the green were arrested last week. Similar encampments have sprung up at other universities nationwide. New York University witnessed an encampment swelling to hundreds of protesters, leading to police intervention due to disorderly conduct and reports of antisemitic incidents. The university’s crackdown has drawn criticism from students, including law student Byul Yoon, who expressed concern about the arrests on their own campus.


The protests have created divisions among students. Pro-Palestinian activists demand that schools condemn Israel’s actions in Gaza and divest from companies selling weapons to Israel. Meanwhile, some Jewish students feel unsafe, asserting that criticism of Israel has crossed into antisemitism. Notably, Hamas still holds hostages taken during their October 7 invasion. Tensions remain high at Columbia, where protests persist both on campus and outside. U.S. Representative Kathy Manning met with students from the Jewish Law Students Association, acknowledging the significant encampment on the green and expressing concern over signs advocating for Israel’s destruction.



A pro-Palestinian protester is grabbed by University of South Florida police as they begin to clash on campus Monday, April 29, 2024, in Tampa, Fla.


The pro-Palestinian protests that began at prestigious U.S. universities have now extended their reach to Europe. Here are some notable instances:

  1. France:
    • At the Sorbonne University in Paris, about 100 demonstrators occupied the main courtyard, waving a giant Palestinian flag and chanting slogans in support of Palestinians in Gaza. French police eventually removed dozens of students from the area.
  2. Canada:
  3. United States:
    • At the University of Texas at Austin, tensions escalated as at least 40 demonstrators were arrested on Monday. Officers in riot gear encircled approximately 100 sitting protesters, physically removing them one by one. Another group of demonstrators trapped police and a van full of arrestees between buildings, leading to a chaotic scene with pushing, shoving, and the use of pepper spray and flash-bang devices by officers.


These protests reflect the global impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with students across continents expressing their views and demanding action from their respective institutions

The recent clash at the University of Texas in Austin, a campus with over 53,000 students, marks an escalation in tensions. Last week, more than 50 protesters were arrested, and the situation intensified on Monday.


In response, the university issued a statement clarifying that many of the protesters on Monday were not affiliated with the school. Additionally, the university strictly prohibits encampments on campus. Officials alleged that some demonstrators were “physically and verbally combative” with university staff, leading to the involvement of law enforcement.


The predicament faced by arrested students has become a focal point of the protests. Both students and an increasing number of faculty members are advocating for amnesty for the protesters. The critical question revolves around whether these suspensions and legal records will have lasting consequences for the students as they transition into adulthood


A protester is taken away by University of Texas at Austin police at an encampment on the campus Monday, April 29, 2024.


The ongoing occupation protest by pro-Palestinian students at Columbia University in New York City has become a focal point of political unrest. Here are the key details:

  • Protests Begin: The demonstrations commenced on April 17, 2024, when pro-Palestinian students established an encampment of approximately 50 tents on the university’s campus. They named it the Gaza Solidarity Encampment and demanded that the university divest from Israel.
  • Initial Dismantling: The encampment was forcibly dismantled the next day when university president Minouche Shafik authorized the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to storm the campus and conduct mass arrests. However, the students rebuilt the encampment.
  • Historical Context: These arrests marked the first time Columbia allowed police to suppress campus protests since the 1968 demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
  • Organizers: The campus occupation is organized by Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a student-led coalition of over 120 groups, along with Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). These groups have actively participated in New York City’s pro-Palestinian demonstrations since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October 2023.
  • Ongoing Tensions: The protests have led to tensions between pro-Palestinian activists and counter-demonstrators. While the university didn’t call the police to disperse the protesters, suspensions have already begun. The university cites the encampment as a “noisy distraction” interfering with teaching and exam preparation. An alternative venue for protests will be offered after exams and graduation.
  • Impact on Students: Some Jewish students have expressed discomfort due to the ongoing protests.


In summary, the Columbia University campus has become a battleground for free speech, activism, and conflicting viewpoints surrounding the Israel-Hamas conflict.


Student protesters gather in protest inside their encampment on the Columbia University campus, Monday, April 29, 2024, in New York.


Few additional details were immediately provided by the university regarding the involvement of students, the implementation of suspensions, or the potential ejection of suspended students from the campus. Protest organizers stated that they were not informed of any suspensions as of Monday evening.

Columbia University’s management of the protests has also led to federal complaints. A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Jewish students alleges that Columbia breached its contract by failing to maintain a safe learning environment despite its policies and promises. The lawsuit also challenges the shift away from in-person classes and seeks swift court action to compel Columbia to provide security for the students.


In contrast, a legal organization representing pro-Palestinian students is urging the U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office to investigate Columbia’s compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 regarding the treatment of these students. The university declined to comment on these complaints.

In a rare instance, Northwestern University reached an agreement with students and faculty representing the majority of protesters on its campus near Chicago. The agreement permits peaceful demonstrations until the end of spring classes on June 1, with the condition that all tents except one for aid be removed, and the demonstration area be restricted to students, faculty, and staff unless otherwise approved by the university.

At the University of Southern California, organizers of a large encampment held a 90-minute meeting with university President Carol Folt on Monday. Folt did not disclose the details of the meeting but stated that its purpose was to allow her to listen to the concerns of the protesters.


USC faced controversy on April 15 when officials refused to allow the valedictorian, who has publicly supported Palestinians, to deliver a commencement speech, citing unspecified security concerns. This decision led to the cancellation of the keynote speech by filmmaker Jon M. Chu, an alumnus, and the refusal to award any honorary degrees.

These events, along with Columbia University’s demonstrations, inspired encampments and protests on the USC campus last week, resulting in the arrest of 90 individuals by police in riot gear. The university subsequently canceled its main graduation event, which typically attracts 65,000 people to the Los Angeles campus.


Folt stated in a late Monday statement that while the students may not have considered the meeting a victory from their perspective, the most crucial aspect was the initiation of dialogue, which she deemed essential.

Another meeting between Folt and protesters was scheduled for Tuesday.


Administrators at various institutions attempted to salvage their commencement ceremonies, and several have issued orders to clear encampments in recent days. When these efforts proved unsuccessful, officials threatened disciplinary action, including suspension and potential arrest.

However, students remained firm in their positions at other prominent universities, with standoffs persisting at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, and elsewhere. At Virginia Commonwealth University, police in riot gear attempted to disperse an encampment late Monday, engaging in clashes with protesters and using pepper spray and zip-ties to make arrests.


Jacob Ginn, a second-year sociology graduate student at the University of North Carolina, stated that he had been participating in the encampment protests for four days, including negotiations with administrators on Friday. Ginn emphasized the protesters’ readiness for any situation and their determination to continue their presence until the university addresses their demands, pledging to remain resolute in the face of potential police action.


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