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Pro-Palestinian demonstrations sweep US colleges

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations sweep US colleges

On April 22, 2024, in New York City, Pro-Palestinian advocates gathered for a rally at Columbia University. (AFP)

Columbia University switched to online classes, Yale saw dozens of protesters arrested, and Harvard Yard gates closed to the public on Monday. These actions came as prestigious US universities grappled with protests relating to the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.

The recent surge in campus actions began last week when over 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested after setting up camp on Columbia's green. This set off a chain of protests across Ivy League schools as administrations struggle to balance free expression with campus safety.

Similar protests have emerged at the University of Michigan, New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Students at these institutions are demanding their universities condemn Israel's military actions in Gaza and divest from companies that supply weapons to Israel.

Pro-Palestinian students have been vocal in their criticism of Israel, demanding school administrations take a stand against what they describe as injustices in Gaza. Conversely, some Jewish students report feeling unsafe on campus.

Tensions were particularly high at Columbia, where the university took the measure of locking campus gates. US Rep. Kathy Manning noted a significant encampment and signs demanding the destruction of Israel, highlighting the intense atmosphere.

Columbia's President Minouche Shafik announced that all classes would be held virtually to de-escalate tensions and allow the community to reflect on the next steps.

Security measures have been intensified, with access to campuses like Columbia being restricted to those with a university ID, due to continuing protests both on and off-campus.

University officials, including President Shafik, have issued statements expressing concern over the distress caused on the campus.

At Yale, approximately 45 protesters were arrested, sighting misdemeanour trespassing, with officials warning that further actions could include suspension.

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