Berlin: Police declare occupation of Humboldt building over

Berlin: Police declare occupation of Humboldt building over

Pro-Palestinian activists occupy a building at the Humboldt University in Berlin. The university tolerates it, but there is criticism. In the evening, the building is cleared – and the university president speaks out.

The police have completed the evacuation of the occupied building of the Humboldt University in Berlin. According to initial reports, there were around 150 activists in the building, police spokeswoman Beate Ostertag said in the evening. Some of the activists left voluntarily, others were taken away by the police.

A demonstration on the outskirts of the formerly occupied building was subsequently broken up – the police announced over loudspeakers that there was no reason for the demonstrators to stay.

The demonstrators occupied the university premises on Wednesday in protest against Israel and in support of the Palestinians. The occupiers, a group called Student Coalition Berlin, accused Israel of “genocide” and “ongoing mass murders” in a statement. They said they were “unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people.” Among other things, they are demanding that Berlin universities campaign for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and put pressure on the German government. The government should impose an arms embargo on Israel and end all military, financial and diplomatic aid to Israel.

University President von Blumenthal expresses regret

In view of the evacuation, President von Blumenthal expressed her regret that no agreement had been reached. “I am not sure whether it would have been possible, but I had the impression that we had taken a good step with this dialogue,” she said after talks with the pro-Palestinian activists who had occupied the building. “Then the order came from the very top to end the occupation. I followed this order,” she said. By this she meant the Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU), as she stated when asked.

Blumenthal said of the talks with the activists that it was possible, with a moderator and in mutual respect, to “talk about what we can perhaps even come closer to and also talk about what divides us.” It was also possible to listen to the suffering of the Palestinian students. Of course, she always had the suffering of the Jewish students in mind as well.

Heated atmosphere and chants

In the evening, the mood at the university was heated, as a dpa reporter observed. Banners were hanging on the building, including one with the words “Free Palestine”. In the courtyard behind a fence, several dozen occupiers, some of them masked with Palestinian scarves, were standing and sitting. They chanted “Viva Palestine” and “Yallah Intifada”. Intifada refers to a series of attacks and terrorist attacks by Palestinians in Israel and is also interpreted as a call to violence. According to the activists’ spokeswoman, around 100 occupiers had spent the night at the institute. The university had tolerated the occupation until Thursday at 6 p.m.

In the afternoon, Governing Mayor Wegner stated on Platform X that he expected Humboldt University “to take responsibility and act consistently now. Teaching must continue! Our universities are places of knowledge and critical discourse – and not lawless spaces for anti-Semites and terror sympathizers.”

GdP: “The autonomy of teaching applies”

Criticism also came from the police union (GdP). “The autonomy of teaching is important, and universities in particular should be seen as places of exchange and discussion,” said the spokesman for the regional association, Benjamin Jendro. But that is no basis for legitimizing the act outside the democratic framework, shouting anti-Semitic and contemptuous slogans, holding up anti-constitutional posters and committing property damage.

The conflict in the Middle East has now reached German universities. There are repeated protests against Israel’s actions in the Gaza war and actions by students in solidarity with the Palestinians. An occupation at the Free University of Berlin a few weeks ago was broken up by the police.

Protest action also in Oxford

After the Hamas massacre in Israel on October 7, which left more than 1,200 people dead, more than 35,000 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza war that followed, according to the Hamas-controlled health authority, although the figure, which is difficult to verify independently, does not distinguish between civilians and fighters.

In the English university city of Oxford, police arrested 16 people during a protest. According to a BBC report, it was a sit-in by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Officers visited a square at the university on Thursday morning, police said. It had previously been reported that demonstrators had gained access to a private office in one of the buildings.

Source: Stern

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