By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2904

US pro-Palestine students push back against cops

Student protests are spreading across the border to Canada
Issue 2904
A line of cops in Dartmouth illustrating a story about the US student encampments for Palestine

Heavily armed riot police descend on Dartmouth, New Hampshire (Picture: National SJP)

The US student movement for Palestine is fighting back in the face of police repression—and, in some cases, pushing cops off campuses.

Over 120 campuses are in revolt, with new groups at campuses across the US starting actions every day.

At George Washington University—which isn’t even a 15-minute walk from the White House—students successfully stopped the cops from pulling down a Palestinian flag they had erected. As students pushed the police away, they chanted, “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.” 

There were big protests at California State University Long Beach campus on Thursday. Students at the School of Visual Arts in New York began a sit-in at the student affairs admin office on the same day.

Workers joined students in forming a picket outside the sit-in area to protect the occupation. 

There are now four pro-Palestine encampments in the state of Connecticut, with students from Trinity College in Hartford setting up their camp on Thursday. 

Encampments were also spreading across the border this week. Students at the University of Toronto, Canada, began an encampment on Thursday. 

The Seattle University Students for Justice in Palestine said that management preemptively locked the doors to the campus in an attempt to repress the protests.

The students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) were at the sharpest end of the repression and resistance. On Wednesday evening cops marched into the encampment to try to break it up.

Hundreds of students lined up to protect their camp. They linked arms, built barricades and fashioned anything they could find into shields. 

At several points, students were able to push the cops back. But, ultimately, the ferocity of state repression pushed students back. “Last night, law enforcement assaulted the UCLA Palestine solidarity encampment,” wrote the Students for Justice in Palestine UCLA group. 

“Over 12 hours, police brutalised students and community allies, broke down the encampment barricade and targeted the most vulnerable inside, resulting in 200 arrests.

 “In an orchestrated effort California Highway Patrol and the Los Angeles Police Department shot students with rubber bullets and threw flash bang grenades to disarm and paralyse them.

“Police arrested hundreds, beating them back with batons before dragging them to the ground for detainment. Officers were fully equipped with riot gear against weaponless students who created a student change to defend our encampment from sanctioned abuse by the university. 

“Many were rushed to the Emergency Room after the bullets connected with their heads and hands.”

Student Ryan, who had just been arrested at UCLA, told Al Jazeera, “The school would rather physically hurt their students rather than even consider divestment. We didn’t do anything wrong.

“I received a citation for unlawful assembly and I’m proud of that. We will be back. We’re going to continue to fight for Palestine.”

University administration at Columbia University locked the campus down after it sanctioned the police to go in and break up the encampment earlier this week. More reports of police brutality have been coming out from those who occupied the universities’ Hamilton Hall. 

One student said, “They kicked us in the chest, in the guts, in the head, in the face. multiple people have concussions, lacerations, broken ankles. 

“I saw people in holding with wrapped wrists. One person had to go get stitches. All of those injuries were inflicted by the New York Police Department (NYPD).” 

It has been revealed that an NYPD officer fired a gun inside Hamilton Hall on Tuesday night. According to the NYPD, an officer “accidentally fired” into a wall. 

But students at Columbia have not been beaten by the attacks and are continuing to take action. Hundreds gathered outside the mansion house of university President Minouche Shafik on Thursday night and made as much noise as possible. 

Police arrested more students at New York University, The University of Texas in Dallas, Fordham University, Tulane University in New Orleans and Portland State University. In total around 2,000 people have been arrested by the cops at campus protests.

The lengths that the US state will go to in order to suppress anti-war protests were on show once again when president Joe Biden attacked the students as violent. On Thursday he said, “Destroying property is not a peaceful protest.

“It’s against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancelling of classes and graduations —none of this is a peaceful protest.”

Students shouldn’t take lessons in violence from a president who is complicit in the Israeli state’s murder of over 34,000 Palestinians.

Student occupations in Britain 

Student encampments across Britain are still going strong. In Goldsmiths, south London, after six months of protests, a five week occupation and a flash encampment in the library students have declared a victory over management.

Student Samira told Socialist Worker that “it feels pretty amazing to move management on this question”. “This has been six months of protests, walk-outs, storming council meetings, occupations and sit-ins,” she said.

“It’s been six months of escalated action too on these demands. We were determined and people were prepared to take action, like the occupation. We followed the US encampments and did our own in the library for three days.”

Following this action, the students got another meeting with management, which they haven’t had since the occupation ended.

“Management will now follow through on some of the promises it made and we won more in the current round, like additional Palestinian scholarships,” Samira added.

She says, “This is what the student movement needs. If we’re going to stop our universities from funding genocide in our names students have to be prepared to take this kid of action on campus.

“Our demands are right and we know that with every day we don’t take action more Palestinians die. We’re proud we achieved this and want to see it replicated elsewhere.

“We don’t just want solidarity with students around the world but Palestinians who resist occupation and the terror state. We won’t stop taking action until Palestine is free.”

The students have won Palestinian undergraduate scholarships—the only university in Britain to do so. The university has also agreed a new ethical investment policy and will release a statement with the student union to call for a ceasefire and rebuilding education in Gaza.

Management also conceded that new protest guidelines were a response to the Palestine protests and will review them so that students cannot be filmed without their knowledge.

It will also conduct a review of the IHRA definition and the occupation will be memorialised with one of the occupied lecture theatres, named after Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh.

The encampments are linked by a national WhatsApp Chat so that the fightback is united. On Thursday evening in Leeds, the student coalition disrupted a university awards ceremony peacefully.

“Security made threats to physically remove students sitting and chanting outside,” Leeds Students Against Apartheid Coalition said.

“In an attempt to confiscate a megaphone belonging to a student, security started violently attacking student protesters without warning, preventing them from voicing their demands to end university complicity in genocide.

“Multiple students were manhandled, dragged, shoved and kicked by security, with several sustaining injuries. University security management was present and aided these officers in their assault of students.”

The statement added that a young Muslim student was thrown to the ground. Students say they have tried to raise the safety of pro-Palatine students on campus. And now the university has “directly partaken in” violence.

“We will continue to dispute and escalate, and there will be no peace on campus until this university is no longer complicit in Israel’s crime”.

In Newcastle, occupier Liam told Socialist Worker, “It’s going well. We have a rally today, as we do every day, but we’re building it to get speakers from different local union branches.

“We have 30 tents and management hasn’t said much to us, but we have support from the UCU union.

“Security hasn’t said much either—we don’t know what it’s planning, but we’re not going anywhere at least for now.”

In Manchester, student Yas said that there’s over 50 tents camped at the university. “We have a different timetable every day for activities and teach-ins,” she told Socialist Worker.

“On Thursday we had a Palestine night with songs and local people joining. Local people have also been donating to the encampment to keep it going.

“We said we’d stay for a week, but it looks like we could extend longer. Zionists coming

“The university has said we are right to do this, and have the right to. Security comes round handing out letters with what we can and can’t do, but we think management is just trying to avoid a confrontation.

“But we want confrontation—I think we need to escalate. We need to send a message to management to take us seriously. We’ve also sent out a call for more people—we have enough supplies, but to keep the occupation going for longer we need more people.”

In Bristol up to 40 students are involved in the encampment, with a rota taking place each night to decide who stays. Zionists on campus have attempted to undermine the encampment and intimidate the students.

But students in Bristol plan to stay indefinitely—and held a rally on Friday and planned to hold political events across next week. They also plan to link up with a Palestine march in the city centre on Saturday.

In Sheffield on Friday students at the solidarity encampment held workshops on decolonisation, racism and antisemitism and why Latin American countries stand with Palestine. The day also entailed a rally and poster making.

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