pro-Palestinian protests on Columbia University campus clash with police, government

Since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, some American universities have become the center of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In New York, at Columbia University, demonstrators set up tents, before being dislodged on Monday by the police.


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Protesters occupy the Columbia University campus in support of Palestine, in New York, April 22, 2024. (DAVID DEE DELGADO / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP)

In the United States, there is a resurgence of pro-Palestinian protests at some universities. For the past week, it is in New York, at Columbia University, that the movement has tried to find a second wind. But this was cut short by the riot police who arrested on Monday April 22, 2024 some of the pro-Palestinian students, installed in tents on the university esplanade since Wednesday. Columbia is a symbol of the historic ’68 protests against the Vietnam War and against racial segregation. Columbia wanted to take over from the universities of Harvard and Pennsylvania, whose two presidents, under pressure from Congress, had to resign a few weeks ago for not having condemned this pro-Palestinian movement.

Whether at Columbia, Yale or New York University, the police are closing in on demonstrators and regularly making arrests. The protest no longer finds any support. In her turn before Congress last Wednesday, the president of Columbia declared: “anti-Semitism has no place on our campus”. Certainly, but subtextly, we must understand that the expression of a challenge to Israeli policy in Gaza is no longer possible either. The American president also made an about-face, even though he had agreed, a few weeks ago, with two Palestinian demonstrators who came to interrupt one of his speeches.

Suspension of donations, approach of the presidential election… The tone is changing

For Columbia, there was the cut announced by three generous donors of 100 million dollars annually. The administration quickly did the math. This immediate suspension of donations was justified quite radically by one of these three billionaires, Robert Kraft, on the set of Fox News. It is not far from Godwin’s point when he compares this pro-Palestinian student protest to the worst hours of the persecution against the Jewish people. “This is what is happening today, in this beautiful country that has provided so many opportunities to our family members who arrived as immigrants. We cannot allow this intimidation to take hold on campuses and hatred spreads in this way”he declared on Fox News.

Around the campuses, there is also the political issue of this year 2024. The presidential election is approaching, and each point of tension can very quickly become problematic. The authorities change their tone, they speak of tensions, and fear the endangerment of Jewish students on campus. In reality, it is difficult to justify the deployment of riot police. As for the demonstrators, even if the messages are unambiguous (the students speak of genocide and complicity of the United States), overall the movement remains peaceful.

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