Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at campuses as colleges crack down on encampments

April 29, 2024
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Students at dozens of universities in the U.S. and Canada are continuing to protest for Palestinian human rights after months of war in Gaza.

Most student organizations participating in protests and encampments on campuses have similar demands of their administrations, including divestment from companies that could be profiting from the war and transparency regarding where they’re investing their money.

Many universities have said they support freedom of speech and will allow protests on campus, but that encampments violate school policy. On Saturday, dozens of people were arrested at colleges that cracked down on encampments, including Northeastern University, where about 100 people were detained.

Here are the most recent updates on what is happening on campuses across the country.

George Washington University

Administrators at George Washington University in the District of Columbia said Sunday that protesters who remained at an on-campus encampment would be temporarily suspended from school and administratively barred from campus.

The encampment was being limited to 20 people, they said. A separate encampment off-campus was under the purview of the Metropolitan Police Department, the school’s top leaders said in a statement Sunday.

George Washington University Protesters
Protesting George Washington University students celebrate as they break through a police barrier in Washington early Monday.Cliff Owen / AP

On Sunday, video posted to social media by protesters depicted some clashes with law enforcement on campus.

The administrators, President Ellen M. Granberg and Provost Christopher Alan Bracey, earlier acknowledged a lack of violence on campus, but singled out messaging deemed “highly offensive to many members of our community,” including “hateful language.”

New Orleans

Police said that at least 10 people were arrested Sunday night at a pro-Palestinian protest in New Orleans, where students from Loyola and Tulane Universities have joined the nationwide student movement to oppose Israel’s military action in Gaza.

New Orleans Police Department told NBC News’ affiliate station in the city, WDSU, that four officers were injured as police cleared protesters from Jackson Square, which is overlooked by St. Louis Cathedral.

UCLA

Skirmishes broke out between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel counterprotesters at the University of California, Los Angeles in the Westwood community Sunday.

No arrests or injuries were reported as members and supporters of the pro-Israel group Stand With Us rallied on campus and ultimately clashed with pro-Palestinian protesters at their expanding encampment.

Stand With Us co-founder Roz Rothstein said on social media platform X that 1,000 people joined the counterprotest.

Video showed some protesters removing barriers that separated the two sides as fast-moving participants bumped bodies, stood off and yelled at each other.

“We are heartbroken to report that today, some physical altercations broke out among demonstrators,” UCLA vice chancellor for strategic communications Mary Osako said in a statement.

Osako said more security personnel and measures were subsequently put into place on campus.

University of Southern California

Joel Curran, the University of Southern California’s senior vice president of communications, said campus property, including the Tommy Trojan statue, was vandalized Saturday by individuals who are part of the group that has continued “to illegally camp on our campus.”

A USC Department of Public Safety vehicle sits next to the base of the Tommy Trojan statue
A USC Department of Public Safety vehicle sits Sunday beside the Tommy Trojan statue, which was tagged in Los Angeles on Saturday.Jason Goode / AFP via Getty Images

“Despite repeated warnings, this group has also continued to disrupt our campus operations and harass students and others, in violation of numerous university policies,” Curran said. “While the university fully supports freedom of expression, these acts of vandalism and harassment are absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Curran did not specify what the acts of harassment allegedly perpetrated by the group were. He said protesters have refused “numerous attempts” made by President Carol Folt to meet with them.

“We are hoping for a more reasonable response Sunday before we are forced to take further action. This area is needed for commencement setup early this week,” he said.

Members of the law enforcement and police officers intervene the Pro-Palestinian student protesters at University of Southern California
Police detain a person during protests at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Grace Hie Yoon / Anadolu via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Police Department said no one was arrested during a protest on campus Saturday night.

USC students started protesting after Muslim student Asna Tabassum’s valedictorian speech was canceled because of unspecified security threats.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

President Sally Kornbluth released a statement Sunday saying negotiations between student protesters and administrators came to a stalemate when “students made clear on social media that they will not accept anything less than their original demands.”

“What’s more, despite the fact that the students were engaged with us in what we thought were good-faith discussions, a group of students disrupted another official MIT event this morning,” Kornbluth said. “I have long believed that dialogue and mutual understanding are the best way to resolve conflicts. But it is clear that this approach has not allowed the progress we were hoping for.”

NBC News has reached out to MIT for comment on what the administration plans on doing next.

In a video statement published Saturday, Kornbluth acknowledged that the pro-Palestinian protests on campus have been peaceful so far but said the encampment “has been a clear violation of our procedures for registering and reserving space for campus demonstrations.”

“We are open to further discussion about the means of ending the encampment,” Kornbluth said. “But this particular form of expression needs to end soon.”

Pro-Palestine demonstrators rally at an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rally at an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Mario Tama / Getty Images

Emerson College

Video from this past week showed officers in protective gear moving in on Boylston Place Alley on Emerson’s campus, where an encampment was set up. A total of 118 protesters were arrested as a result, according to a statement from President Jay Bernhardt.

Bernhardt said the college “advocated with the City and Boston Police Department for several days to delay the removal of the encampment,” and when it became clear that was imminent, it encouraged protesters to remove tents from the alley.

“We know that the events of that night were, and are, emotionally overwhelming for our entire community, especially for the students present at the protest and the staff and faculty who were on site to provide support,” he said.

Bernhardt said the college will not bring campus disciplinary charges against the protesters and plans to encourage the district attorney not to pursue charges against those involved in the encampment.

University of Mary Washington

A total of 12 people, including nine students, were arrested for trespassing Saturday after the University of Mary Washington in Virginia prohibited an encampment on campus because it invited outsiders in, according to a statement from President Troy Paino.

“We remain committed to working with our campus community members to facilitate peaceful expression, and we welcome individuals and families to our campus for public events, including demonstrations when those activities abide by policies and regulations,” Paino said. “Events that do not follow instructions, attempt to disrupt classes or activities, or endanger the health, safety, and security of our campus community will not be allowed.”

Northeastern University

About 100 people were detained at a pro-Palestinian protest at Northeastern University’s Boston campus Saturday morning, according to university officials.

“What began as a student demonstration two days ago, was infiltrated by professional organizers with no affiliation to Northeastern,” the university said in its statement on X. “Last night, the use of virulent anti-Semitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,’ crossed the line. We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus.”

Video circulating online appears to show the statement being made by a counterprotester holding an Israeli flag, who was met with boos from other protesters on campus. It’s not clear if the person who said the antisemitic phrase was among those detained or disciplined.

The leading student organization behind the protest, Huskies for a Free Palestine, or HFP, called the administration’s statement “false narratives,” and accused the administration of implying the phrase was said by pro-Palestinian protesters and using it “as justification to arrest over 100 Northeastern faculty, workers, and students.”

Columbia University

Columbia’s pro-Palestinian encampment stretched into its second weekend after talks between protesting students and the administration remained at a stalemate.

The NYPD said there were no reports of arrests of students at Columbia University on Friday or Saturday regarding the encampment.

The Reach Education Fund, a U.S. nonprofit that helps Palestinian students achieve their academic dreams, shared a video of children supporting protesters at Columbia University.

Pro-Palestinian protesters camp out in tents at Columbia University in New York on Saturday.
Pro-Palestinian protesters camp out in tents at Columbia University in New York on Saturday.AP

“Thank you, the students of Columbia University,” one student said. “We respect you,” another student said.

The Palestinian students also showed support for students protesting at Harvard and Yale universities.

“We hear you.. students of Yale University,” read one sign held by a student.

Portland State University

On Friday, Portland State University President Ann Cudd announced that the institution will put a pause on receiving “any further gifts or grants” from Boeing, after receiving a letter signed by members of the community.

The university’s Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights has accused Boeing of being “complicit in the occupation and genocide in Palestine,” according to a post on its Instagram account.

A spokesperson for Boeing said the company has no comment.

Arizona State University

At Arizona State University, 72 people were arrested Friday and accused of trespassing related to setting up an encampment, according to a university spokesperson.

The school said the encampment was established mostly by people who were not university students, faculty or staff, and that they refused instructions to disperse.

Of the 72 people arrested, only 15 were students, according to the university.

Indiana University

Police arrested 23 people at Indiana University on Saturday after protesters were warned to remove tents or other structures that violated university policy. Those who didn’t were “detained and removed,” the university said.

The people arrested face charges ranging from criminal trespass to resisting law enforcement. It’s unclear whether they are affiliated with the university.

Dozens of people are arrested by the Indiana State Police riot squad during a pro-Palestinian protest on Indiana University's campus
Indiana State Police riot officers arrest dozens of people during a pro-Palestinian protest on Indiana University’s campus in Bloomington on Thursday.Jeremy Hogan / Sipa via AP

Washington University

At Washington University in St. Louis, more than 80 arrests were made Saturday after a group of students, employees and others not affiliated with the campus refused to leave after pitching tents and calling on others to join their protest, the university said in a statement.

“All will face charges of trespassing and some may also be charged with resisting arrest and assault, including for injuries to police officers,” the school said.





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