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Gaza conflict: Pro-Palestinian university protest camp in Los Angeles evacuated

Gaza conflict: Pro-Palestinian university protest camp in Los Angeles evacuated

US universities are epicenters of the bitter American debate over the Gaza war. The evacuation of a camp in New York is followed by a police operation in Los Angeles. The president also speaks out.

US President Joe Biden has strongly condemned violence in the protests after the evacuation of another pro-Palestinian tent camp on the campus of an elite university. “There is the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,” Biden said in a short-term speech at the White House. There must be order, the USA is not a lawless country. At the same time, the Democrat made it clear that the protests did not cause him to rethink his Middle East policy. A few hours before Biden’s speech, the police in Los Angeles cleared a protest camp on the campus of the renowned University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

Police arrest demonstrators

Protests against Israel’s actions in the Gaza war and for solidarity with the Palestinians have broken out at various US university locations in recent weeks. Mostly it involves the demand for universities and companies to cut financial relationships with Israel. While some Jewish students take part in these protests, others feel threatened and stay away from universities. Well over 1,000 demonstrators were arrested across the country. A few days ago, the police cleared a university building occupied by students at the elite Columbia University in New York

That night, police also took action against a tent camp on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. Demonstrators and police faced each other for hours. The police finally cleared the camp in the early hours of the morning. The officers tore down barricades that had been set up. US media reported more than 100 arrests. Videos showed scuffles between police and demonstrators.

Authorities had classified the camp on the UCLA campus as an “unlawful gathering.” According to the Los Angeles Times, several thousand protesters subsequently gathered around the barricaded tent camp and opposed the emergency services and initially pushed them back from the camp. Violence had already broken out the previous night when supporters of the opposing side tried to tear down the protest camp.

Biden: Violence is not peaceful protest

Biden found clear words shortly after the eviction. The 81-year-old is under pressure in the US for his support for Israel’s military operation against the Islamist Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He made it clear that there should be no room for anti-Semitism or threats of violence against Jewish students. This also applies to Islamophobia.

He also emphasized that violence, vandalism or trespassing is not a peaceful protest. “Threatening people, intimidating people, making people afraid is not peaceful protest. It’s against the law.” When asked by the press whether the National Guard should get involved, Biden said: “No.” The Democrat gave the same answer when asked whether the protests caused him to rethink his Middle East policy.

Critics accuse the radical part of the protest movement in particular of anti-Semitism and trivializing Hamas – the Islamist organization denies Israel’s right to exist and triggered the Gaza war with an unprecedented massacre on October 7th. Opposite them are protests in many places that show solidarity with the Israeli side and demand the release of the hostages still held captive by Hamas. Anti-Semitic acts have increased at universities since October 7th. Islamophobic attacks too.

State of emergency also at other universities

There were also police operations again at other US universities. According to Hanover police, 90 people were arrested at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. They were accused of trespassing and resisting state authority after tents were set up on the site without permission. According to police, only some of those arrested were Dartmouth students or teachers.

In Dallas, police clearing a protest camp on the University of Texas campus took at least 20 people into custody and were expected to spend the night in jail, Fox4 reported. Stony Brook University in New York also announced that a demonstration on its premises that initially began peacefully had degenerated. Tents were set up and other students were intimidated and harassed. 29 protesters were then arrested, including students and employees as well as non-members of the university.

More than two weeks ago, the wave of campus protests at New York’s elite Columbia University began with a tent camp that was quickly broken up by police. The approach, which was perceived as particularly harsh, spurred the students on, so that a larger camp was formed. Tensions led the largely peaceful protests to eventually lead to the violent occupation of Hamilton Hall on the Columbia campus. A large NYPD contingent then cleared the campus and temporarily arrested more than 200 students.

New protest camps in Great Britain

Pro-Palestinian protests are also taking place at some universities in the UK. Students in the cities of Leeds, Newcastle and Bristol have set up tents in front of university buildings to protest against the war in Gaza, the British news agency PA reported. Photos from Manchester also show some tents with Palestinian flags.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Penny Mordaunt called on police to take “extremely strict action” if students resorted to violence in the UK. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman emphasized the right to peaceful protest. However, this should not be abused to intimidate others or cause unrest. “Of course, the police already have extensive powers to maintain public order to prevent unrest during protests and will continue to have our full support in doing so if necessary,” he said.

The Times newspaper reported that the camps in Great Britain were only a fraction of the size of those at the US universities Yale and Columbia. There have been repeated protests in Great Britain since the terrorist attack by the Islamist Hamas on Israel on October 7th triggered Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Times, the protests were planned before the wave of demonstrations in the USA, but have now gained new momentum. A Jewish student association in Britain has called on universities to protect Jewish students. “Students have the right to protest, but these camps create a hostile and toxic atmosphere on campus for Jewish students,” the Union of Jewish Students said on the X (formerly Twitter) platform.

Source: Stern

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