100 students arrested at US colleges as pro-Palestine protests spread

100 students arrested at US colleges as pro-Palestine protests spread
American students at universities in Texas and California were arrested after staging demonstrations calling for their colleges to end ties to Israel
4 min read
25 April, 2024
Faculty and students at University of Texas at Austin have said they will stage more demonstrations on Thursday following the arrests [GETTY]

Around 100 students were arrested across the US on Wednesday for taking part in on-campus Palestine solidarity demonstrations, as college administrations and state police seek to quash the movement that erupted after the start of the war on Gaza.

Arrests at the University of Southern California and the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday added to chaotic scenes in New York, where police were deployed to disperse a weeklong encampment at the city's Columbia University.

The movement has snowballed into a nationwide stand off between US college administrations and their students over the Israel-Gaza war which has seen accusations of antisemitism and major grassroots movements in support of Palestine.

Since the start of the war in October, students have been holding regular protests demanding their colleges end ties to Israeli-linked companies, an end to the Gaza war, and the killing of Palestinians. 

But powerful college administrations, which have been accused of traditionally taking a pro-Israel position and holding various business and education ties with Tel Aviv, have sought to silence the students.

The current wave of activism kicked off after Columbia University students staged a sit-in last week to show solidarity with Gaza and demand the US government stop arming Israel in its war on Gaza, which has killed over 34,000 Palestinians since October.

After Columbia's president Minouche Shafik ordered police to clear the encampment and more than 100 protesters arrested, it sparked students across the country to demonstrate in support.

One of the largest demonstrations took place at the University of Texas at Austin when on Wednesday 500 students walked out of classes in a pro-Palestine demonstration organised by the Palestine Solidarity Committee to demand the college divests from manufacturers that supply Israel with weapons.


The demonstration was non-violent and calm until authorities intervened, which saw hundreds of state police, some on horseback and carrying batons, deployed after the university's president called them in, local newspaper the Texas Tribune reported.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said on Wednesday that 34 arrests had been made on the campus related to the protest.

Students said they faced heavy-handedness from riot police who pushed back crowds from one of the main lawns where they had gathered.

The college's faculty issued a solidary statement following the incident, saying it condemned the president's decision to "invite city policy as well as state troopers…to our campus today in response to a planned peaceful event".

Texas Governor Republican Gregg Abbott reportedly ordered the state troopers to attend and close the protests. Abbott wrote on social media site X on Wednesday that "these protestors belong in jail" and claimed the protest was "antisemitic".

The protest groups, including the faculty, have called for another walkout and demonstration on Thursday. 

Protests have spread across the US since last week, with encampments popping up at prestigious universities such as Harvard University and Brown University.

The movements, led by pro-Palestine activists and progressive Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, have been rallying against the US government's support for Israel and its decision to send billions of dollars worth of military aid.

The demonstrations have coincided with the Jewish festival of Passover which has seen separate events in New York against the government's massive $96 billion deal signed by President Joe Biden on Wednesday that will see Israel receive some $15 billion in military aid.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Los Angeles police arrested 93 students at the University of Southern California (USC) on Wednesday after they told protesters gathered on campus to disperse.

The LAPD said the arrests were made for trespassing after police officers in riot gear were ordered to clear the campus with patrols continuing into Thursday.

Students staged an encampment on the college's Alumni Park from early Wednesday and the protests remained peaceful until officers arrived around 4pm and attempted to move people from the area, The Los Angeles Times reported.

By 9:30pm the crowd had mainly left the paper reported, while the university said the campus would remain closed into Thursday.

"The campus remains closed until further notice. Students, faculty, staff, and people with business on campus may enter with proper identification," USC wrote on X on Thursday.

The heavy-handed response has garnered criticism from across the board with some describing the arrests as quashing freedom of expression, while Jewish students involved in the demonstrations have rebutted claims they are antisemitic.