Pro-Palestine protests gain strength at US campuses; tussle at UCLA

Protests rage in Indiana University, Arizona State University and Washington varsity

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS/USA-PROTESTS Protesters attend a demonstration in support of Palestinians in Gaza at the University of California Los Angeles in Los Angeles | Reuters

The pro-Palestinian protests in US campuses continue to gain strength over the weekend with skirmishes between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel supporters rocking the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

More arrests were also reported with over 275 people detained across various campuses including Indiana University at Bloomington, Arizona State University and Washington University in St. Louis. 

In UCLA, which has been witnessing protests and counter-protests, things spilt out of control after some demonstrators broke through a barrier that the school had set up to separate the two factions, reported Reuters. According to Mary Osako, UCLA's vice chancellor for UCLA strategic communications, protestors of both factions shoved one another shouted slogans and insults, and in some cases traded punches. 

"UCLA has a long history of being a place of peaceful protest, and we are heartbroken about the violence that broke out," Osako said in a statement. However, by evening the tension began to ease after pro-Palestinian protesters trickled back to the encampment. Though police officers in riot gear were seen standing at a distance from the crowd, university officials said police will not intervene unless they feel students are in harm’s way. 

Meanwhile, demonstrators on George Washington University's campus left the encampments by Sunday night, but another group erected an encampment of about 20 tents on a nearby public street over the weekend, the school said. The varsity had earlier warned that students who remained there would be temporarily suspended and administratively barred" from school grounds.

The university said there had been no incidents of violence during on-campus demonstrations though it said the actions of some protestors have been highly offensive to many members of our community.

The US campuses witnessed pro-Palestine protests during the last week with more than over 100 demonstrators arrested at New York’s Columbia University. Dozens more students were also arrested at New York and Yale universities. University of Southern California also saw over 100 students arrested while riot police had to storm the gates of the University of Texas at Austin to disperse the demonstration.

Protesters are demanding a ceasefire in the war with Hamas the divestment of university assets in companies involved with the Israeli military, and an end to U.S. military assistance to Israel.

However, administrators, including those of Columbia, allege that the unauthorised protests are a violation of school rules which disrupt learning and foster harassment and antisemitism. 

Meanwhile, the protests have caught the attention of President Joe Biden. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on ABC News on Sunday. He added that the President acknowledges that many Americans have strong feelings about the war in Gaza. 

"He respects that and as he has said many times, we certainly respect the right of peaceful protest," Kirby said. "People should have the ability to air their views and to share their perspectives publicly, but it has to be peaceful. However, the President condemns antisemitism and hate speech. 

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