As US police dismantle pro-Gaza student encampments, new ones emerge north, south of the border

As US police dismantle pro-Gaza student encampments, new ones emerge north, south of the border
Police in the US cleared out several encampments and arrested students, while new ones emerged across Canada and Mexico in support of Palestine.
4 min read
03 May, 2024
Police in the US tore down tents and arrested students who demanding a ceasefire and a divestment from Israel linked companies [Getty]

US police continued to clear and disperse pro-Palestine protesters from encampments across universities on Thursday evening, while new ones emerged in Canada and Mexico.

Police forces dismantled tents and barricades set up by protesters who were demanding a Gaza ceasefire and divestment from companies linked to Israel, resulting in the arrest of dozens.

At other colleges, students dismantled their camps in agreement with university authorities.

The clearing of the protest camps followed US President Joe Biden's call for the rule of law to be "upheld", stating that "violent protest is not protected".

"Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduation – none of this is a peaceful protest," he added.

Police arrested at least 123 students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), on Thursday. Hundreds of specialist forces were drafted in, tearing down wooden barriers and using stun grenades on students.

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By 4am officers armed with shields and batons had dismantled the encampment wall, while a recorded message warned that anyone remaining at the site risked being shot with rubber bullets.

Tents were also torn down at Portland State University, where officers made dozens of arrests.

The number of arrests carried out across US campuses’ since 17 April has now risen to 2,000, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Condemnation of crackdown

The US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) criticised Biden's response to the protest encampments and the heavy-handed crackdown by authorities.

"President Biden's vague, both-sides speech failed to specifically mention and condemn the violent attacks that pro-Israel rioters and law enforcement officers have launched against students protesting the Gaza genocide at UCLA and other schools across the country," the organisation said in a statement.

CAIR added that while the White House’s communications department has rushed to condemn any allegation of anti-Semitism, even if unverified, it has failed to address incidents of anti-Palestinian racism or Islamophobia caught on camera.

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The crackdown on the protests triggered the US Department of Education's office of Civil Rights to open an investigation into Columbia's response to the encampment crackdown, following a complaint filed by Palestine Legal.

The complaint alleges there has been a pattern of anti-Palestinian discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This investigation marks the third that the department has opened into Columbia University since 2023.

"This investigation could not have come at a better time, as we just saw Columbia escalate its crackdown against Palestinian students and allies who support Palestinian rights," Radhika Sainath, a senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal told the Columbia Spectator.

Encampments in Canada

Meanwhile, protest encampments emerged in Canada, with calls for the one at Montreal's McGill University to be dismantled.

McGill University has requested for police intervention, with law enforcement officials yet to clear the encampment but stating they are monitoring the situation.

Pro-Palestine encampments have also cropped up at the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and the University of Ottawa.

A counter-protest emerged in Montreal on Thursday but was kept separate from the pro-Palestine encampment, where over 100 protesters gathered with dozens of tents.

Students have vowed to stay at the site until the university discloses its investments and ends any that "sustain Israeli apartheid, occupation and illegal settlement of Palestine".

A spokesperson from the university told Reuters they were "in dialogue with the protesters" and that, as of midday, the encampment was not "disruptive to normal university activities".

Dozens of pro-Palestine students in Mexico's largest university set up a similar protest, erecting flags and chanting "free Palestine" and "long live Palestine".

The protesters set up tents in front of the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s (UNAM) head office in Mexico City, demanding the government cuts diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel.

The protests come amidst Israel's ongoing war on Gaza, which has so far killed at least 34,500 Palestinians since October and left over 77,000 wounded.

Israel's aggressions have levelled entire neighbourhoods in the besieged enclave and plunged the strip into a deep humanitarian crisis.