Demonstrations: Controversy over evacuation of Humboldt University

Demonstrations: Controversy over evacuation of Humboldt University

Police cleared a building at Berlin’s Humboldt University that was occupied by pro-Palestinian activists. Now there is disagreement about who made the decision. And not only that.

The eviction of a building at Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU) occupied by pro-Palestinian activists has sparked a controversy between Berlin universities and the state government. According to HU President Julia von Blumenthal, the eviction was initiated under pressure from the Senate.

The order came “from the very top,” she said on Thursday evening. Science Senator Ina Czyborra (SPD) disagreed. The decision was made jointly with the university, she explained. The termination of the action was the subject of a discussion with Governing Mayor Kai Wegner (CDU), Interior Senator Iris Spranger (SPD) and von Blumenthal.

The president of the Technical University of Berlin (TU) jumped to her colleague’s defense. She called Wegner and Czyborra’s actions “extremely strange.” “Ms. von Blumenthal would have cleared the building without orders from above if the dialogue had finally failed. Not only does this show a lack of trust in the university management, it also undermines the university’s autonomy itself.”

Wegner: “We will not tolerate anti-Semitism, hatred and incitement at our universities”

Wegner explained: “If the TU President thinks it is a new style, then she is absolutely right.” And added: “I attach great importance to academic freedom and freedom of opinion, but anti-Semitic crimes are not an opinion.”

The Governing Mayor defended the action against the pro-Palestinian occupiers. “I will not let this happen, we will not tolerate anti-Semitism, hatred and incitement at our universities,” the CDU politician stressed. “Jewish students must be able to study at universities without fear.”

Pro-Palestinian activists occupied HU premises on Wednesday in protest against Israel and in support of the Palestinians. There was a rally near the building, at which the police counted around 300 demonstrators at the peak. The university administration initially tolerated the occupation and relied on a dialogue with occupiers and scientists. On Thursday evening, university president von Blumenthal then ordered the evacuation.

Around 530 police officers in action

The evacuation triggered a major police operation. Around 530 police officers were deployed, the authority announced on Friday. On Thursday evening, officers led around 170 pro-Palestinian activists out of the building of the Institute of Social Sciences.

Of these, 50 occupiers were in the courtyard and another 120 in the building. 20 of them barricaded themselves on the upper floor of the four-story building. “A battering ram had to be used to open the barricaded door.” According to police, the identities of 169 occupiers were established. Criminal investigations were initiated in 25 cases.

Von Blumenthal told RBB Inforadio that evacuation had always been an option – even if, in her view, it had ultimately begun too early. “We were (…) in dialogue in that situation, and from our point of view we needed a little more time to see whether we could bring this dialogue to a conclusion ourselves or not,” said von Blumenthal. However, the university would not have tolerated the occupation any longer than that evening.

Source: Stern

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