Tensions Flare At US Universities Over Gaza Protests

Tensions flare at US universities over Gaza protests

New York, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 23rd Apr, 2024) Tensions flared between pro-Palestinian student protesters and school administrators at several US universities Monday, as in-person classes were cancelled and demonstrators arrested.

The protests, which began last week at Columbia University with a large group of demonstrators establishing a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on school grounds, have spread to other campuses, including Yale, MIT and others.

Some Jewish students at Columbia have reported intimidation and anti-Semitism amid the days-long protest, which is calling for the prestigious New York institution to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Classes were moved online Monday, with university president Nemat Shafik calling for a "reset" in an open letter to the school community.

"Over the past days, there have been too many examples of intimidating and harassing behavior on our campus," she said.

"Anti-Semitic language, like any other language that is used to hurt and frighten people, is unacceptable and appropriate action will be taken.

"To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday," she added.

Last week, more than 100 protesters were arrested after university authorities called the police onto the private campus Thursday, a move that seemingly escalated tensions and sparked a greater turnout over the weekend.

Mimi Elias, a social work student who was arrested, told AFP on Monday: "We are going to stay until they talk to us and listen to our demands."

"We don't want anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. We are here for the liberation of all," Elias said.

Joseph Howley, an associate professor of classics at Columbia, said the university had reached for the "wrong tool" by involving police, which had attracted "more radical elements that are not part of our student protests."

"You can't discipline and punish your way out of prejudice and community disagreement," Howley told AFP.