US Police Disperse NYU Encampment, Campus Demonstrations Also Come Up In France

In a bid to quell ongoing demonstrations, law enforcement authorities intervened to dismantle encampments at both New York University (NYU) and The New School on Friday. The operation, initiated at the behest of university officials, marks a significant development amidst a wave of pro-Palestinian protests gripping campuses across the United States.

According to news agency Associated Press, Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry confirmed the action at The New School, stating, “The New School has requested our assistance to disperse the illegal encampments inside their university center building and residence hall.”

Video footage shared by Daughtry depicted a substantial deployment of officers outside The New School premises on lower Fifth Avenue. However, specific details regarding the number of arrests made at either NYU or The New School have yet to be disclosed, according to AP’s report. Queries for comments from spokespersons of the respective institutions remain unanswered.

The demonstrations, which initially erupted at Columbia University in April, have since proliferated to various campuses across the US, drawing attention to the Israel-Hamas conflict. Rooted in demands for university disengagement from entities allegedly facilitating Israeli military activities in Gaza, the protests have led to a surge in student activism, prompting coverage from student journalists amidst a climate of uncertainty.

Earlier this week, over 100 individuals were apprehended during a crackdown at Columbia University, where the movement first gained momentum. Notably, an incident involving the accidental discharge of a firearm by a police officer during the clearance operation at Columbia’s Hamilton Hall raised concerns. Fortunately, no injuries were reported, and authorities have initiated a review of the incident.

The broader landscape of campus protests has seen numerous arrests across different institutions, with at least 56 incidents documented at 43 universities since April 18, according to an AP tally. The unrest has manifested in various forms, including clashes between demonstrators and law enforcement, as witnessed during a confrontation at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where officers detained over 200 protesters.

In response to the protests, US President Joe Biden acknowledged the right to peaceful assembly while expressing disapproval of recent disorder. The demonstrations, catalysed by the Israel-Hamas conflict, underscore a broader call for solidarity with Palestinians, with students at the forefront of a movement seeking tangible policy changes within academic institutions.

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French Police Evict Student Activists from Sciences Po University

French authorities intervened at Sciences Po University in Paris on Friday, removing student activists who had staged an overnight occupation in protest against Israel’s actions in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza. The operation saw police entering the university buildings to disperse the approximately 70 protesters, marking a peaceful resolution, unlike some incidents in the United States, according to Reuters.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s office disclosed that similar evacuations occurred in 23 higher education institutions across France on Thursday, emphasising the absence of sustained protest camps, a contrast to the United States.  “In contrast to what we see abroad, namely across the Atlantic, no permanent protest camp (…) has been established in France,” he remarked, as quoted by Reuters.

According to Clement Petitjean, an American studies professor at Sorbonne University, the demonstrations reflect mounting frustration over institutional silence regarding events in Gaza, with the conflict acting as a catalyst for broader discontent among the student populace. “There is a level of anger and bafflement about the situation, about the deafening silence of the institutions on what has been going on (in Gaza) since October,” he remarked, as quoted by Reuters.

Sciences Po’s director, Jean Basseres, rebuffed calls for a review of the university’s ties with Israeli academic institutions, prompting continued defiance from the protesters.

Jack, a Sciences Po student involved in the occupation, recounted the refusal of protesters to comply with university directives to vacate parts of the building.

The protest’s ripple effect extended to Sciences Po’s satellite campuses in Reims, Le Havre, and Poitiers, with Sciences Po Lyon and the Lille school of journalism also experiencing disruptions, as shown by French media coverage.

Petitjean attributed the relatively subdued scale of the French protests to factors such as weaker economic links between universities and Israeli entities and less vocal support from academic staff.

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