More Than 2,000 Pro-Palestinian Protesters Arrested Across US Campuses

More than 2,000 people have now been arrested during pro-Palestinian protests across dozens of US college campuses in recent weeks.

Police arrested more than 300 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on college campuses on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, pushing the total past 2,000, according to an Associated Press tally.

More than 200 students were arrested at the University of California, Los Angeles, as police cleared a fortified encampment, and more than 90 students were arrested at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Dozens more were arrested at the University of New Hampshire and at the University of Buffalo. In Oregon, police moved into the school’s library on Thursday, which has been occupied by demonstrators since Monday.

“We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent,” said Joe Biden. “But,” he continued, “order must prevail.”

“Violent protest is not protected – peaceful protest is,” he said. Biden criticized what he called “violent” protests.

“Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations – none of this is a peaceful protest,” Biden said in a brief statement on Thursday morning.

“There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,” the US president said. In response to a reporter’s question, he said he did not think it was the right time to call the national guard.

In a Thursday report, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project said that although some clashes have broken out, “the overwhelming majority [of protests] – 99% – have remained peaceful”.

The protests are part of a movement to force schools to divest from businesses that support the war in Gaza, and they reflect how the war has become a major flashpoint in US politics. More than 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began a campaign to dismantle Hamas, the Gaza health ministry has said. More people in Gaza have been thrust into near starvation, as Israel has limited food aid to the area.

On 7 October, Hamas killed more than 1,200 people and took roughly 250 hostages in an attack on Israel. Since the campaign against Hamas began, the US has provided substantial military support to Israel, including most recently in a $15bn aid package.

Student protests have grown across the country since an encampment sprang up at Columbia University in New York in mid-April. In many cases, faculty members have joined or supported student protesters, as police and universities have responded with force to demonstrations that threaten to continue into commencement season. Hundreds have been arrested in the weeks since the protests began.

Police cleared out a protest camp at UCLA in the early hours of Thursday, and arrested at least 200 demonstrators. The police operation followed a brutal hours-long attack on the encampment on Tuesday night by masked “instigators” who came to campus and assaulted students with projectiles and chemical agents, while campus security and police retreated or stood by without intervening.

At least 1,000 people gathered on UCLA’s campus late on Wednesday night, before police moved in, tearing down plywood and pallets that protesters had used to reinforce their encampment. Students described again being attacked with projectiles, fireworks and chemical agents. The chaotic operation lasted into the early hours of the morning.

By late Thursday morning, the campus had largely quieted down. The UCLA student newspaper the Daily Bruin posted pictures on social media of a campus building scrawled with graffiti saying, “Free Palestine” and “Bleep Israel”.

In New York, legal aid attorneys said they were still fighting to have protesters released more than 24 hours after they were first detained – many of whom were only charged with minor offenses and, attorneys said, should have never been arrested in the first place.

“Many protesters who were arrested earlier this week and arraigned last night were ultimately charged with criminal trespass, a low-level offense, and at that point, they should have been immediately released from custody,” said Tina Luongo, Legal Aid Society chief criminal defense practice attorney.

At Dartmouth, where an encampment had only recently sprung up, a professor said the university responded with “full force”, and posted a video of a white-haired colleague being grabbed and dragged away by police.

“In the hour or so it was allowed to exist, this was the model of a peaceful, inclusive protest,” Jeff Sharlet, a professor at Dartmouth, told the Washington Post. “They obstructed nothing; disrupted nothing; menaced nobody; and neither used nor displayed hate speech.”

The chaotic scenes at UCLA came after New York police burst into a building occupied by anti-war protesters at Columbia on Tuesday night, breaking up a demonstration that had paralyzed the school.

By Wednesday, a scrum had also broken out at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, after police with shields removed all but one tent and shoved protesters. Four officers were injured, including a state trooper who was hit in the head with a skateboard, authorities said. Four were charged with battering law enforcement.

In one rare example of authorities de-escalating protests, Brown University in Rhode Island agreed to a divestment vote in October – apparently the first US college to agree to such a demand.

Authorities have also made arrests and cleared protest encampments at City College, Fordham University and Stony Brook College in New York; Portland State in Oregon; Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff; Tulane University in New Orleans; and the University of Texas, Dallas.

Student protests have also sprung up in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

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