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Crackdown on US compound amid pro-Palestine protests leads to more than 200 arrests

In a series of tense confrontations, more than 200 individuals found themselves in handcuffs after protests at Northeastern University, Arizona State University, Indiana University and Washington University in St. Louis, The New York Post (NYT) reports.

The events, unfolding against a backdrop of rising tensions in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, underscore the challenges facing universities across the country as they grapple with increasingly visible demonstrations and encampments on their campuses.

Since April 18, when Columbia University in New York City saw the New York Police Department dismantle a protest camp, more than 700 protesters have been arrested on campuses across the US. Amid the recent wave of arrests, one notable figure has stood out: Green Party 2024 presidential candidate Jill Stein, her campaign manager and another staff member were arrested at Washington University in St. Louis, according to the NYT.

At Northeastern University in Boston, the scene unfolded Saturday morning as Massachusetts State Police officers moved in to break up an encroachment on the campus’s Centennial Common. The camp, which consisted of over 100 supporters, faced repeated requests from the university administration to vacate the area. Despite these calls, many students remained firm.

Renata Knull, a spokeswoman for North East, expressed concern over the camp, accusing it of being “infiltrated by professional organisers” and condemning the use of “venomous anti-Semitic slurs”. However, protesters strongly denied these claims, pointing to a video that they said was of a pro-Israel counter-protester who used offensive language.

As tensions escalated, arrests began, with more than 100 protesters detained. Although the exact number of students among those arrested is unclear, the university assured that students who presented university IDs were being released.

Alina Caudle, a second-year student at Northeastern University, echoed protesters’ demands for transparency regarding the university’s investments and urged divestment from companies that allegedly support Israel’s actions in Gaza. He emphasized the diverse composition of the camp, noting the significant participation of Northeastern students, as well as the support of Jewish students and faculty.

Similar scenes unfolded across the country. In Boston, Boston police officers arrested 118 people at Emerson College, while at Arizona State University, 69 individuals were detained for setting up unauthorized camps. At Indiana University Bloomington, where tensions had risen with the arrest of 33 protesters earlier in the week, an additional 23 protesters were arrested on Saturday.

Universities grappled with different ways to manage the protests. While some tried to de-escalate tensions, others such as the University of Southern California and Emory University opted for quick police intervention to disperse camps and detain protesters.

An increased police presence was visible at several precincts on Saturday, although not all resulted in arrests. At the University of Pennsylvania, campus police officers were deployed along barricades as more than 100 protesters gathered at a camp, with a small group of pro-Israel countercounters nearby, the NYT reports.

At California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, officials maintained a presence on the closed campus following a protest in which demonstrators occupied two buildings earlier in the week.

In addition to arrests, universities implemented additional measures to apply pressure on protesters. Harvard University restricted access to its historic Harvard Yard, allowing entry only to those with university IDs. Despite the suspension of the pro-Palestinian group, protesters set up an encampment within the yard.

In response, Harvard’s dean of students issued a warning to students attending the camp, threatening disciplinary action. Similarly, Cornell University suspended four students associated with the pro-Palestinian camp on campus, with further disciplinary action expected.

Nick Wilson, one of the suspended students at Cornell, reflected on the significance of the suspension and interpreted it as evidence of his movement’s influence. Despite the challenges posed by these disciplinary measures, Wilson expressed optimism, seeing the suspensions as evidence of the fear created at institutions like Cornell by the growing movement, The New York Post reported.

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