Inside the Escalating University Protests

Arrests aren't just restricted to Columbia's campus
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2024 12:00 PM CDT
Inside the Escalating University Protests
Police in riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus on Thursday in New York.   (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia University, infiltrated by police last week, is back in place, and with it, similar encampments at universities around the country. These, too, are facing police intervention amid the ongoing debate around free speech and antisemitism related to the Israel-Hamas war. More on how the crisis ballooned and why Columbia is at its center:

  • Why Columbia? "Colleges and universities have long been hotbeds for activism," and Columbia is "based in the largest US city, with the second-biggest Jewish population in the world after Tel Aviv" and a fifth of the US Muslim population, per USA Today.

  • Protest history: But there's more to it. In allowing police to march on campus a day after she was grilled by lawmakers about her response to antisemitism, Columbia President Nemat Shafik recalled the police response to 1968 campus protests against the university's ties to a think tank linked to weapons research for the Vietnam War, which became a defining moment for the school, per the Washington Post.
  • Incidents: A recent video shows a protester on campus claiming Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel "will happen not one more time, not five more times ... but 10,000 times!" per CNN. A student tells the outlet that protesters, including Jewish students standing with Palestine, have faced harassment and doxxing.
  • Extra security: The school now faces a "full-blown crisis," per CNN. As one example, Chabad, a Jewish organization on campus, said it hired additional security to protect students during Passover.

  • Calls to resign: Complaining that Columbia's encampment had "shockingly" been allowed to reconvene, New York's congressional Republican delegation said Monday that this "shameful chapter" could only be closed with "the restoration of order" and Shafik's resignation, per Politico.
  • More pressure: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has added more pressure, citing "virulent hate that continues to grow on campus" in pulling his financial support from his alma mater, Politico reports.
  • Censure vote: The university senate will reportedly not call for Shafik's resignation. But it is expected to vote as early as Wednesday on a resolution to censure the president for an "unprecedented assault on student rights," per the New York Times.
  • Beyond Columbia: Solidarity protests have spread to other universities, including New York University; Harvard; Yale; Tufts; Boston University; the University of North Carolina; and USC-Berkeley, per CNN and USA Today. Dozens of arrests were made at Yale and NYU on Monday, per the BBC. One Yale student alleges she was poked in the eye with a Palestinian flag, per CNN.
(More Columbia University stories.)

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