Students defy threat of suspension over pro-Palestinian protest camp

By John Mercury April 30, 2024

Pro-Palestinian students in the US have defied an order by university officials to dismantle a tent camp set up to protest Israel’s war in Gaza or face suspension.

College authorities at Columbia University in New York, sent students a letter on Monday demanding they sign a form agreeing to obey university policies until June 2025 or an earlier graduation, if they wish to finish the term in good standing.

If they failed to comply by 2pm, local time, the letter said, they would be suspended, pending further investigation and would not finish the term, the note said.

A George Washington University student waves a Palestinian flag as he stands atop police barricades that students broke through to occupy the school's University Yard during a pro-Palestinian protest in Washington, Sunday, April 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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A George Washington University student waves a Palestinian flag during a protest on Sunday. Pic: AP

A counterprotester holds a sign during a march on Columbia University campus in support of a protest encampment supporting Palestinians, despite a 2 pm deadline issued by university officials to disband or face suspension, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City, U.S., April 29, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado
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A pro-Israeli counterprotester at Columbia University. Pic: Reuters

But those at the camp, now in its second week, voted nearly unanimously to stay put, NBC, Sky’s US partner, said.

Around 2.45pm, protesters were seen marching on the quad and chanting “Disclose! Divest! We will not slow, we will not rest!'”, NBC said.

More than 300 people and at least 120 tents remained.

Noting that exams are starting and graduation is coming up, the letter said: “We urge you to remove the encampment so that we do not deprive your fellow students, their families and friends of this momentous occasion.”

Mahmoud Khalil, the protesters’ lead negotiator, said university representatives began passing out the notices at the encampment shortly after 10am on Monday.

Demonstrators set up tents in the centre of the Columbia campus in one of the early pro-Palestinian protests over the Israel-Hamas war and its mounting death toll, but dissent quickly spread to other colleges, sparking clashes with police and arrests.

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At least 25 killed in Israeli strikes on Rafah

More than 900 people have been arrested across the US since police in New York removed a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia, arresting more than 100 demonstrators as they did so, on 18 April.

Clashes have continued, with about 275 people arrested on Saturday at various campuses including Indiana University at Bloomington, Arizona State University and Washington University in St Louis.

Barricades torn down by demonstrators are piled in the center of an encampment by students protesting against the Israel-Hamas war at George Washington University on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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Barricades torn down by demonstrators at a student encampment at George Washington University in Washington. Pic: AP

On Sunday night and Monday, people at an encampment near George Washington University in the US capital, protested, breaching and dismantling barriers.

Protesters at Yale University set up a new encampment with dozens of tents on Sunday afternoon, nearly a week after police arrested nearly 50 demonstrators and cleared a similar camp.

Read more:
Student anti-Israel protests continue to sweep the US
Campus protests sum up a moment of divisiveness
Man arrested for swastika placard at London protest

People sit in the shade near tents at an encampment by students protesting against the Israel-Hamas war at George Washington University on Monday, April 29, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
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A student encampment at George Washington University. Pic: AP

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israel-Hamas war, according to local health officials, who say about two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

Israel declared war on Hamas and unleashed an air and ground offensive in Gaza in response to the attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Hamas killed about 1,200 people in Israel and took another 250 hostages in its assault.

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