More arrests on US college campuses as protests continue in Gaza

Washington:

Protests at US universities showed no signs of slowing down last weekend, with more arrests on campuses and a brief skirmish between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators at UCLA in California, where a tent camp was set up last week.

Protesters opposing Israel's invasion of Gaza are demanding a ceasefire in the war with Hamas and the divestment of university assets in companies associated with the Israeli military, and an end to US military aid to Israel.

As the size of an encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles grew in recent days, counterprotesters have become increasingly vocal and visible on campus, although both sides remained peaceful until Sunday.

The tone turned ugly around noon when members of two groups of protesters clashed, shoving each other and shouting, and in some cases exchanging punches.

Guards tried to keep the two sides separated as campus police stood by and watched the brief skirmish, according to a Reuters photographer who witnessed the scene around noon local time.

The dueling demonstrations involved at least some people from outside the university, who issued a statement on Sunday saying that two groups on campus had been able to express their views.

Members of the Harriet Tubman Center for Social Justice planned to support students' right to protest, according to the statement, while Stand in Support of Jewish Students, in partnership with the Israeli-American Council, planned to oppose hate and anti-Semitism on campus.

After the collision, UCLA campus police said they sent more officers to the scene and that city police were not involved. A campus police representative said no arrests have been made.

In the past two weeks, pro-Palestinian protests have spread to college campuses across the US. The proliferation was sparked by the mass arrest of more than 100 people at Columbia University more than a week ago, when the school's president asked New York police to enter the prison. campus to dismantle a tent encampment set up by the protesters on the main lawn.

Since then, hundreds of protesters from California and Texas to Atlanta and Boston have been arrested for replicating the encampments used by Columbia students to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Administrators, including those at Columbia, have said the protests are unauthorized, violate school rules, disrupt education and have promoted harassment and anti-Semitism.

The Columbia campus was quiet on Saturday, a school spokesperson told Reuters. But crackdowns took place on a handful of other campuses, including a lockdown at the University of Southern California (USC) and a heavy police presence.

More than 200 people were arrested at a handful of schools, including Washington University in St. Louis. Among those arrested at Washington University was 2024 Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

“They send in riot police and basically cause a riot in an otherwise peaceful demonstration. So this is just shameful,” Stein said in a statement.

The University of Washington said in a statement that those arrested will face trespassing charges.

'Strong feelings'

The nationwide protests have caught the attention of President Joe Biden. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on ABC News on Sunday that the president understands there were very strong feelings about the war in Gaza.

“He respects that and as he has said many times, we certainly respect the right to peaceful protest,” Kirby said. “People should have the opportunity to express their opinions and share their perspectives publicly, but it should be peaceful.”

At the same time, Kirby said, the president condemns anti-Semitism and hate speech.

At USC, the administration canceled the main commencement ceremony last week after a decision to cancel the valedictory speech of a Muslim student, who responded by saying she was silenced because of anti-Palestinian hatred.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said Sunday she believed canceling the commencement, which was expected to have 65,000 people in attendance, was a decision USC “had to make.”

“They just didn't feel like it would be safe,” Bass said on CNN's State of the Union.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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