DC police shut down pro-Palestine campus protest

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Protests have spread across campuses at US universities since the middle of April
By Thomas Mackintosh
BBC News

Police have made several arrests at George Washington University (GW) after officers moved to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment from the campus.

A spokesperson for Washington DC Metro Police told the BBC that “a number of arrests” were made for assaults on a police officer and unlawful entry.

University students have been inside an encampment since 25 April.

Since mid-April pro-Palestinian demonstrations have broken out at nearly 140 US colleges.

Despite GW’s efforts to offer an alternative protest site, the encampment has persisted and has drawn attention from beyond the campus. University officials say they are unsure how many of the demonstrators are students.

“While the university is committed to protecting students’ rights to free expression, the encampment had evolved into an unlawful activity, with participants in direct violation of multiple university policies and city regulations,” a GWU statement said.

Tensions had grown in recent days, after police removed a large Palestinian flag that demonstrators had raised above a campus building. In a statement, GW called the flag’s hoisting an “aggressive act of lawlessness”.

Metro Police told the BBC there has been “a gradual escalation in the volatility” of the protest and as a result officers moved to disperse the demonstrators from GW.

“Therefore, this morning, working closely with the GW administration and police, MPD moved to disperse the demonstrators from the GW campus and surrounding streets,” the statement added.

The police operation came a week after six Republican members of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee visited the encampment in University Yard, where they called on officials to arrest protesters involved.

There have been heated demonstrations at a number of universities across the country against the war in Gaza.

Since the 7 October attack by Hamas and Israel’s retaliatory assault, students have launched rallies, sit-ins, fasts and, most recently, encampments against the war.

According to a BBC tally, there have been pro-Palestine protests at 45 states and Washington DC since the demonstrations started at Columbia University in New York on 17 April.

They are demanding that their schools, many with massive endowments, financially divest from Israel.

Many also want their universities to end academic relationships with Israeli institutions.

Previously, President Joe Biden said people had the right to protest but not the right to cause chaos.

Watch: See how Gaza campus protests spread across the US

But, Mr Biden warned on Tuesday the threat of antisemitism is growing in the US, including on college campuses, joining a heated American debate about Jewish security, Zionism, free speech and support for Israel, in the country with the largest Jewish population after Israel.

Addressing a bipartisan audience at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual commemoration, Mr Biden said: “This hatred (of Jews) continues to lie deep in the hearts of too many people in the world and requires our continued vigilance and outspokenness,” Biden said.

“Now here we are, not 75 years later, but just seven and a half months later, and people are already forgetting … that Hamas unleashed this terror,” he added.

“I have not forgotten, nor have you. And we will not forget.”

4 days ago27 April29 April26 April

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