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News / Nation & World

Police arrest dozens as they break up pro-Palestinian protests at several US universities

By MICHAEL CASEY and BRUCE SHIPKOWSKI, Associated Press
Published: May 10, 2024, 12:12pm
4 Photos
A man walks below flags flyng at a Pro-Palestinian encampment at MIT, Thursday, May 9, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT has suspended 23 students for participating in the encampment, and police detained at least three during a demonstration at the nearby Stata center, where demonstrators blocked traffic over claims the university was conducting research which would be used for Israeli military drones.
A man walks below flags flyng at a Pro-Palestinian encampment at MIT, Thursday, May 9, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. MIT has suspended 23 students for participating in the encampment, and police detained at least three during a demonstration at the nearby Stata center, where demonstrators blocked traffic over claims the university was conducting research which would be used for Israeli military drones. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds) Photo Gallery

Police made dozens of arrests as pro-Palestinian protest encampments were dismantled Friday at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, hours after police tear-gassed demonstrators and took down a similar camp at the University of Arizona.

Philadelphia and campus police moved in around daybreak at Penn to remove protesters from an encampment that had been in place for more than two weeks. School officials said protesters were given warnings and the chance to leave without being detained. About 33 people, including students and faculty members, were among those arrested and charged with trespass, the school said.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, police in riot gear arrived at MIT around 4 a.m., encircled the camp and gave protesters about 15 minutes to leave. Ten students who remained were arrested, the university’s president said. A crowd outside the camp began chanting pro-Palestinian slogans but was dispersed shortly after.

At the University of Arizona in Tucson, campus police in riot gear fired tear gas late Thursday — the day before the school’s main commencement ceremony — at protesters before tearing down an encampment that included wood and plastic barriers. The school said that police vehicles were spiked, and that rocks and water bottles were thrown at officers and university staff. Two people were arrested, a university spokesperson said.

The commencement scheduled for Friday night will go forward, university President Robert Robbins said.

And at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, police arrested 13 people Thursday night after they refused to leave a building that had been damaged and vandalized. The charges ranged from misdemeanor trespass to felonies including battery on a peace officer, school spokesperson Amanda Bradford said. The building, Hadley Hall, was cleared and open Friday.

Tensions have ratcheted up in standoffs with protesters on campuses across the United States and in Europe. Some colleges cracked down immediately, while others have tolerated the demonstrations. Some have begun to lose patience and call in the police over concerns about disruptions to campus life and safety.

The protest movement began nearly three weeks ago at Columbia University in New York City. It has since swept college campuses nationwide, with demonstrators generally seeking to draw attention to the deaths from the Israel-Hamas war or calling for their schools to stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 75 instances since April 18 in which arrests were made at U.S. campus protests. Nearly 2,900 people have been arrested at 57 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from schools and law enforcement agencies.

The move at MIT came several days after police first attempted to clear the camp, only to see protesters storm past barriers and restore the encampment, which includes about a dozen tents in the heart of the campus in Cambridge.

Before removing the encampment, MIT earlier in the week had started suspending dozens of students, meaning they wouldn’t be able to take part in academic activities or commencement.

Protesters insisted the move would not stop them from demanding that MIT end all ties to the Israeli military. The encampment had been up for weeks and especially angered Jewish students, who have held counterprotests nearby.

“This is only going to make us stronger. They can’t arrest the movement,” said Quinn Perian, an undergraduate student at MIT and organizer for MIT Jews for Ceasefire. “We are going to continue and won’t back down until MIT agrees to cut ties with the Israeli military. MIT would rather arrest and suspend some students than they would end their complicity with the genocide going in Gaza.”

MIT President Sally Kornbluth, working to strike a balance between recognizing the suffering in Gaza and concerns about the “safety of our community,” had warned Monday the encampment would have to be removed.

In a letter confirming Friday’s arrests, she wrote that her responsibility is “to make sure that the campus is physically safe and functioning for everyone … and that everyone feels free to express their views.” The encampment, she wrote, “increasingly made it impossible to meet all these obligations.”

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