Israel-Gaza war: Mapping US campuses that are witnessing pro-Palestine protests

A wave of student demonstrations is sweeping through the United States against the Israel’s war in Gaza, resulting in the detention of more than 1600 students so far. The protests gained steam after the arrest of Columbia University students on April 18.

Demonstrators have set up temporary encampments in some of America’s most prestigious universities as fear grows that they could impact President Joe Biden’s re-election bid. Authorities have responded with unusual force, storming campuses, removing tents, and warning of academic consequences.

More than 30 US universities, including Princeton, New York, Columbia, and Yale, have seen students calling for an end to the war in the Gaza Strip that has killed nearly 35,000 civilians post Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on October 7 last year.

Administrators have been struggling to balance demonstrators’ right to speak up with maintaining the peace on campus.

Over 150 students were arrested from the New York University in the latest round of protests, at least 118 from Emerson College, 109 from Columbia University, and many more across other campuses since April 17.

This thematic map illustrates the number of student arrests compiled from local media reports entailing color mapping symbology to visualize statistical data

Here is a brief detail on students’ rallies, sit-ins, encampments and hunger strikes in US campuses:

Columbia University: Columbia was the first American academic institution to see a major pro-Palestinian encampment on campus. Students pitched tents in the middle of campus and began rallying in support of Palestinians on April 17. Police tried to clear the encampment the following day after they arrested more than 100 people. The move motivated Columbia protesters to regroup.

The university responded by saying that it had no choice but to call the police after demonstrators smashed windows and blocked doors. The police were asked to stay on campus for two weeks to maintain peace.

But the mass arrests appear to have galvanised the movement.

University of California, Los Angeles: On May 1, UCLA became the site of some of the worst violence seen in the protests so far, when counter-protesters attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus. At least 15 people were injured during the confrontation, including one hospitalisation. Multiple news reports said security guards and law enforcement officials at the scene initially retreated or failed to intervene.

California Governor Gavin Newsom called the violence “unacceptable” while Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass called for a “full investigation” into the incident. On Wednesday, hundreds of people were reportedly still queueing to enter the encampment in the evening, with authorities declaring an unlawful assembly there and preparing to clear the encampment.

University of Texas: As per reports, 57 arrests were made on Wednesday at the University of Texas. Greg Abbott, the Republican Governor, posted on X (formerly Twitter) that the protests were “antisemitic” in nature and called for the expulsion of the protestors.

Videos posted on X showed that the police operation involved dozens of troopers in riot gear. The encampment was dismantled within 20 minutes but police stayed on the campus till evening.

New York University: On April 22, the New York Police Department arrested over 118 students after officials reported of an unauthorized pro-Palestinian demonstration taking place.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have also gathered over the past week on university campuses in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, and the UK.

Other sites:

In Boston, at least 118 people were arrested at Emerson University on Tuesday, leading the university to suspend all classes. Four policemen were reportedly injured during the protest.

At Yale University campus, about 48 people were arrested on Wednesday, but only 4 of them were students of the university.

Fourteen people including two students were arrested on Wednesday at the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, when police were called in to clear a two-day-long encampment, as per the weekly student news site Tulane Hullabaloo.

What are students demanding?

In addition to initiatives such as humanitarian aid being dispatched to Gaza, there is a call for schools, many with massive endowments, to divest from Israel. Divestment means to sell off stock in Israeli companies, or to otherwise drop financial ties. Student activists say that companies doing business in Israel, or with Israeli organisations, are complicit in its ongoing war in Gaza – as are colleges investing in those companies.

Flyers with messages like “This protest was brought to you by American Taxpayers” were seen across some universities. Tents sporting slogans like “Free Gaza” or “No US$ for Israel” lined the entrance of Emerson College. Students are also calling for an academic boycott of Israeli universities. For example, Columbia protesters want the university to sever ties with the school’s centre in Tel Aviv and a dual degree program with Tel Aviv University. New York University protesters use the school’s Tel Aviv centre as a rallying cry.

Source: X/ @anahitajafary_

Other demands include stopping cooperation and business with military weapon manufacturers by US universities supplying arms to Israel and denial to accept Israeli fund for research.

Western media reports that student organisations at some universities have passed resolutions to end investments and academic partnerships with Israel, such as Columbia and Harvard Law.

As protests unfold, the world is keeping a close watch on the impact of students’ protests on US policy and the official response to the demonstrations taking places in a country that claims to champion the cause of democratic rights, freedom, and free speech.

Published On:

May 2, 2024

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