Students arrested and classes cancelled as US universities hold pro-Palestine protests

Tensions are high at university campuses across the US amid ongoing pro-Palestine protests, ITV News' Sejal Karia reports

Dozens of students have been arrested on the campuses of several US universities after a wave of protests over the war in Gaza.

Last week, more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia University's green were arrested, sparking similar encampments to sprout up around the country.

At New York University, an encampment set up by students swelled to hundreds of protesters throughout the day on Monday. The school said it warned the crowd to leave, but called in the police after the scene became disorderly and the university said it learned of reports of “intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents.”

“It’s a really outrageous crackdown by the university to allow the police to arrest students on our own campus," said New York University law student Byul Yoon.

“Anti-Semitism is never ok. That’s absolutely not what we stand for and that’s why there are so many Jewish comrades that are here with us today,” Yoon said.

Police arrested over 100 protestors at Columbia University last week. Credit: AP

Meanwhile, tensions remained high at Columbia, where the campus gates were locked to anyone without a school ID and protests broke out both on campus and outside.

The university has said that it's main campus will swap to hybrid learning to give students the chance to attend classes online for the rest of the term following the protests.

Some students have said they are afraid to set foot on Columbia's campus.

The protests have pitted students against one another, with pro-Palestinian students demanding that their schools condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza and divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel. Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has veered into anti-Semitism.

The move comes as schools across the country, many of which have about two weeks of classes left before the semester ends, grapple with how to handle similar protests.

University President Minouche Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on campus.

“To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday,” Shafik wrote, noting that students who don’t live on campus should stay away.

At Harvard, a sign forbade structures such as tents and tables being erected without prior permission and “students found violating these policies are subject to disciplinary action".

Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus last Thursday. Credit: AP

At Yale, police officers arrested about 45 protesters over the weekend and charged them with misdemeanor trespassing, said Officer Christian Bruckhart, a New Haven police spokesperson.

All were being released on promises to appear in court later, he said.

A large group of demonstrators regathered after Monday's arrests at Yale and blocked a street near campus, Bruckhart added.

Globally, protestors have demonstrated since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, when militants killed about 1,200 people and took roughly 250 hostages. During the ensuing war, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

In the US, students claim there has been a rise in both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic incidents as the violence in the Middle East continues.

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