Dutch police arrest 125 at pro-Gaza encampment in Amsterdam university as Columbia cancels graduation ceremony

Dutch police arrest 125 at pro-Gaza encampment in Amsterdam university as Columbia cancels graduation ceremony
Dutch police arrested around 125 pro-Gaza activists and broke up a protest at the University of Amsterdam.
4 min read
07 May, 2024
Students in Amsterdam launched a pro-Gaza encampment protest which was quickly quashed by police [Getty]

Dutch police arrested around 125 pro-Gaza protesters and broke up an encampment at the University of Amsterdam early on Tuesday as student protests in solidarity with Palestinians swept college campuses in Europe and North America.

Police said the crackdown was "necessary to restore order" at the Netherlands' elite university, which follows a wave of campus protests in the US last month.

Videos from the protest in Amsterdam show police using a mechanical digger to destroy barricades, while officers holding batons and shields moved in to disperse protesters.

Some officers beat protesters and pulled down tents after activists refused to follow police orders to leave the site.

"The protest in this form created a very unsafe situation, partly due to the barricades that prevented emergency services from entering the site," police said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the university also said that while they were able to support the protest during the day, they could not allow students to stay overnight.

Scores of protesters started the encampment on Monday, calling for universities in Amsterdam to cut off academic ties with Israel.

The activists chanted for a free Palestine, played the drums, and barricaded access to the area with large wooden pallets.

Many of the protesters expressed their solidarity with Palestinians and called for a ceasefire, as Israel continues to pound Gaza.

Israel has killed over 34,600 Palestinians since the start of the war on 7 October, while at least 78,000 have been wounded in the same time frame. An additional 10,000 are believed to be still trapped under the rubble, according to Gaza’s Civil Defence crews.

The Netherlands has been one of Israel's strongest allies since its creation in 1948.

The protest encampments at Amsterdam University were inspired by similar ones in the US, which first started on 17 April at Columbia University, and have since spread worldwide.

Graduation ceremony cancelled 

On Monday, Columbia University announced they would be cancelling their main graduation ceremony this year, which was set to take place on 15 May.

Citing security concerns, the university said that instead, smaller-scale, school-based graduations would take place far away from the main campus.

The University of Southern California also cancelled its main commencement ceremony due to similar concerns.

The protests have grown in numbers, including in Europe, Australia, and Lebanon

In Belgium, around 100 students also took part in a protest, occupying part of Ghent’s University, UGent.

Footage has shown students calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine in one of the university buildings.

Several UGent staff members and professors have signed an open letter supporting the protest and condemning the university’s decision to continue research collaborations with Israel.

"UGent never gives permission to occupy buildings, but if this happens, a general framework of agreement applies," rector Rik Van de Walle said in a statement.

In France, activists gathered in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis to demand French universities end all cooperation with Israeli institutions.

Students agreed to organise an action day where many French universities would take part in demonstrations across the country.

Meanwhile, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) vowed on Monday to pull its investments from Israeli companies after students said they would remain in their encampment indefinitely until their demands are met.

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According to The Irish Times, the university’s endowment fund has invested in 13 Israeli companies, three of which feature on a UN Human Rights Council list of companies involved in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Representatives from TCD met with management on Monday to discuss the issues raised by protesters, agreeing to address the issues as an internal process in an effort for services to return to normal for staff and students.

The university has identified eight places for Palestinian scholars from Gaza to study at TCD, adding that fees have been waived for them.