Universities in the US are seeing pro ceasefire protests in online news & headline news

Gaza Protests Roil Universities From California to New York; Tensions Grow at Humboldt, Berkeley

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By Jenny Jarvie and Melissa Gomez
Los Angeles Times

(Los Angeles Times) — Officials shut down the campus of Cal Poly Humboldt on Monday night after masked pro-Palestinian protesters occupied an administrative building and barricaded the entrance as Gaza-related demonstrations roiled campuses across the nation. headline news

Three students were arrested after law enforcement officers wearing helmets and riot shields descended on the public university in Arcata, in rural Northern California, and clashed with demonstrators who had set up tents inside Siemens Hall and erected a banner that said, “STOP THE GENOCIDE.”

“Free, Free Palestine,” supporters chanted outside the building. “Long Live Resistance!”

As sprawling pro-Palestinian protests and encampments escalate on university campuses across the United States, administrators are reacting with more forceful discipline as they try to balance pro-Palestinian students’ free speech rights with concerns for safety and other students’ counter claims of harassment and disruption.

At Columbia, in-person classes were canceled Monday and the president asked students to stay home after more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators were arrested last week and protesters established a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on a central lawn. Some Jewish students complained they were harassed, even assaulted, by protesters who blocked their movement.

At Yale, at least 60 protesters who camped at Beinecke Plaza were arrested after the university said they refused a final request to leave voluntarily.

At UC Berkeley, students set up a Gaza solidarity encampment at Sproul Plaza — the historic ground zero of the 1960s free speech movement — demanding that UC divest from the Israel-Hamas war.

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As hundreds gathered at an encampment at New York University, administrators called on the NPYD to come in after the protest became “disorderly, disruptive and antagonizing” and they learned of reports of “intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents,” a spokesperson said in a statement,

Tensions flared quickly at Cal Poly Humboldt.

About 4:50 p.m. Monday, campus police received reports of dozens of students occupying the first and second floors of Siemens Hall, the university said in a statement. Classes in the building were canceled and students and faculty who were in the middle of classes were evacuated, the university said, as protesters “began disrupting classes and vandalizing university property.”

According to the university, protesters blocked entrances and elevators with tents and in some locations shut doors using chains and zip ties, violating fire codes and “creating extreme safety hazards for those inside.”

After giving the protesters multiple warnings to exit the building voluntarily, campus spokesperson Aileen S. Yoo said the university contacted outside law enforcement agencies to assist in responding.

About 7:45 p.m., an officer told dispatchers that about 100 protesters remained near the building and police had attempted to take students into custody, but the crowd pulled them back, according to a report from Lost Coast Outpost. Another officer called for a pepper ball launcher.

Video footage taken from inside the building showed protesters jumping up and down and chanting, “We are not afraid of you! We are not afraid of you!” as armed officers approached the glass doors of Siemens Hall.

Protests at universities, calling for a ceasefire in headline news & online news
FILE – Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

As protesters blocked the police from entering, a law enforcement officer beat a protester with a baton and a protester beat the officer’s helmet with an empty five-gallon water jug.

The two sides sparred for several minutes, until the protesters finally forced the police back outside.

By 8:30 p.m., Cal Poly Humboldt issued an emergency alert warning that the campus was closed through Wednesday “for the safety of the campus community.”

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After locking campus buildings and cutting off key card access, the university advised students and faculty to “avoid the area of the building, as it is a dangerous and volatile situation.” Employees and students were advised to pivot to remote learning.

As night fell, protesters outside the building clapped and chanted, “Free Palestine” and “Cops go home!”

Inside the building, a masked protester wearing black held up a sign that read: “HELP US PLEASE. THEY ARE GOING TO ATTACK.”

Protesters inside also held signs that urged supporters outside to resist law enforcement: “There are more of u than them” and “PUSH THEM OUT!”

Around 11 p.m., law enforcement officers left the front of Siemens Hall, according to Lost Coast Outpost.

As dozens of protesters remained barricaded inside Siemens Hall Tuesday afternoon, buildings remained locked down Tuesday, and in-person classes were canceled. Students were advised to check in with their instructors or supervisors for instructions on remote classes.

The university said administrators were concerned about the safety of the students inside the building and urged them to discuss a peaceful resolution.

“The University supports free speech through open dialogue that is respectful and constructive,” the university said. “There are many avenues and options to express views that don’t involve disrupting operations and vandalizing campus, which interferes with the campus community’s rights to a safe and peaceful environment.”

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Humboldt for Palestine, a group that did not organize the protest but amplified the protesters demands, said in a statement on Instagram Tuesday that the students would not leave until the university divested from “israeli” occupation and the ongoing genocide.”

“We will not negotiate us leaving until they divest,” Humboldt for Palestine wrote Tuesday on behalf of the students. “After that is met, then we will have further demands. But we are not leaving or moving or talking until they have completely divested from israel.”

“The liberation of Palestine is the focal point of this work at this time,” they added. “Free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

The group urged students and members of the community descend on the Cal Poly Humboldt campus to protect the students as they demanded the institution disclose all holdings and collaborations with Israel, cut all ties with Israeli universities, and drop all “charges and attacks” on student organizers as well as an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

“Go to the campus as soon as you can!”

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Asked if students could face academic consequences for occupying the building and taking part in the protest, Yoo said: “If students are found in violation of student conduct policies, they may be subject to disciplinary action.”

Since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, universities such as Columbia, Stanford and Berkeley have faced intense pressure to restrict pro-Palestinian protests and encampments that accuse Israel of genocide and call for a cease-fire. Some Jewish students and faculty have complained protesters have blocked their movement and harassed them.

In February, Columbia implemented interim rules for demonstrations that included a requirement of two days’ notice, prohibition on protests in academic spaces and consequences for violations.

At Stanford, after activists set up a sprawling encampment on White Plaza for months, administrators enforced a camping ban in February “out of concern for the health and safety of our students.”

Berkeley’s university president announced last month she was setting up a group to reexamine the university’s rules on protests after pro-Palestinian students blocked the middle section of Sather Gate, the entrance to Sproul Plaza, for months with yellow caution tape and banners.

Police staging a presence at Columbia University in headline news & online news
NYPD officers from the Strategic Response Group form a wall of protection around Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Michael Gerber and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kay Daughtry, not in the picture, during a press conference regarding the ongoing pro-Palestinians protest encampment at Columbia University in New York on Monday, April 22, 2024. 
U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

As new protests erupted on Sproul Plaza this week, UC Berkeley Assistant Vice Chancellor Dan Mogulof said that Berkeley would prioritize students’ academic interests in the last few weeks of the spring semester.

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“We will take the steps necessary to ensure the protest does not disrupt the university’s operations,” Mogulof said in a statement. “There are no plans to change the university’s investment policies and practices.”

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, students do not have a 1st Amendment right to camp out on campus grounds.

“Peaceful protest is generally protected, and colleges and universities must ensure students can engage in peaceful protest on campus,” the foundation said in a statement. “But we remind students that engaging in civil disobedience may result in punishment, including arrest… Students occupying campus spaces in violation of reasonable, content-neutral rules risk punishment.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, raised concerns Monday about bringing in NYPD to dismantle a student encampment and arrest students who were peacefully protesting.

In a letter to university President Minouche Shafik, Jaffer wrote that he was “deeply troubled” by the university’s “severe and seemingly viewpoint-discriminatory enforcement of rules relating to student demonstrations.”

“The University has a legitimate interest in enforcing reasonable restrictions on the time, place, and manner of protests,” Jaffer wrote. “The University’s rules also make clear, however, that external authorities should be engaged to end a protest only as a last resort — only when there is ‘a clear and present danger to persons, property, or the substantial functioning of any division of the University.’”

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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