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US university students stand firm after 282 arrests; NYC mayor dismisses detainees as 'outsiders'

NYC mayor claims 282 arrested at Columbia University and others are external agitators, not students

Written by  Annesha Barua -- May 02nd 2024 10:00 AM
US university students stand firm after 282 arrests; NYC mayor dismisses detainees as 'outsiders'

US university students stand firm after 282 arrests; NYC mayor dismisses detainees as 'outsiders'

PTC News Desk: Following the apprehension of 282 individuals across various universities in the United States, tensions have only intensified. The arrests, predominantly at Columbia University, along with other educational institutions, have prompted a response from New York City's mayor, who contends that those detained are outsiders rather than students.

Despite the arrests, students remain steadfast in their refusal to capitulate, continuing their protests against Israel's military operations in Gaza. The unrest has not been confined to New York, with reports of clashes emerging from California as well.

282 arrested at premiere colleges in New York

Amidst a backdrop of escalating tensions, New York City's premiere colleges, Columbia University and the City College of New York, witnessed a significant police crackdown resulting in approximately 282 arrests from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. This crackdown coincided with the eviction of students who had occupied Columbia University's iconic Hamilton Hall since April 30.

Once a bastion of activism during South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, Hamilton Hall took on new significance as "Hind's Hall," commemorating six-year-old Hind Rajab, tragically killed along with her family by Israeli forces in Gaza.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams attributed much of the unrest to "outside agitators," disassociating them from the university community. He expressed concern over the influence of external forces radicalizing young protesters.

Eyewitness accounts, such as that of student journalist Meghnad Bose, painted a vivid picture of the police intervention, noting instances of aggressive dispersal tactics employed against protesters.

Kaz Daughtry, Deputy Commissioner of Operations for the NYPD, highlighted Columbia University's role in soliciting police assistance to restore order on their campus, emphasizing the need to dismantle unlawful encampments and secure university buildings.

Meanwhile, on the West Coast, tensions flared at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) as pro-Israel counter-protesters clashed with pro-Palestine demonstrators. Witness reports described efforts to dismantle the pro-Palestine encampment, resulting in confrontations marked by thrown objects and wielded sticks.

In response to the escalating violence, the Los Angeles Police Department intervened at UCLA's request, addressing multiple incidents of aggression within the encampment.

Despite the challenges and adversities faced, pro-Palestine demonstrators at UCLA exhibited resilience, a sentiment echoed by reporter Rob Reynolds, who highlighted their unwavering determination amidst the turmoil.

Why are students protesting at US universities?

The surge in protests gripping US universities stems from a complex interplay of international events and internal university dynamics. It all began with heightened tensions following an attack by Hamas on southern Israel on October 7, followed by an extended Israeli military campaign in Gaza that resulted in significant Palestinian casualties.

However, the recent wave of protests gained momentum nearly two weeks earlier due to criticism directed at Columbia University President Minouche Shafik. Shafik faced backlash for her testimony before a US congressional committee, with critics accusing her of prioritising the interests of lawmakers over those of the university's students.

As tensions escalated, protesters began demanding divestment from Israel and companies associated with the conflict. They also criticized university administrators for allegedly exploiting public safety concerns and using accusations of anti-Semitism to suppress dissent.

The protests were not confined to New York; arrests were made at other universities as well. In New Orleans, 14 protesters were detained at Tulane University, while arrests also occurred at the University of South Florida and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

In response to the unrest, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass condemned the violence at UCLA, labeling it as abhorrent and inexcusable. Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended the police crackdown, claiming that the protests at Columbia University were driven by individuals unaffiliated with the institution.

- With inputs from agencies

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