US students up in arms against Biden on Gaza war

PTI, Apr 23, 2024, 8:15 AM IST

Washington: Thousands of students in US university campuses are up in arms against President Joe Biden for his handling of the war in Gaza.

From the Columbia University in the East Coast to the Stanford University in California, students have rallied behind the people of Palestine and are holding Biden responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians, including children and women, in Gaza by Israeli forces.

“Columbia University cancelled in-person classes, Yale police arrested dozens of student protesters, and pro-Palestinian demonstrators set up encampments at other colleges Monday as tensions flared again on campuses across the country over the Israel-Gaza war,” “The Washington Post” reported.

“Students at many schools are escalating protests over the war, living in tents on campus, disrupting university events, and risking and provoking arrest, leading to a growing sense of chaos and crackdown at colleges in the waning days of the academic year,” the daily wrote.

According to “The New York Times”, police made arrests of students at the New York University to quell the pro-Palestine demonstrations. “Officers at NYU moved into the crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters at around 8:30 pm, after university leaders said the group had breached school barricades and behaved in a ‘disorderly, disruptive and antagonising’ manner,” the daily said.

At the University of California, Berkley, pro-Palestinian students and their allies set up about 15 tents, “The Mercury News” reported.

Videos and pictures of the protests have gone viral on social media. One of the videos is of protest by students of the prestigious Columbia University in New York, being led by someone identified by many as an Indian student. In the video, she is seen passionately raising the slogan “Azadi. Le Ke Rahenge Azadi” — similar to what was seen on some Indian universities’ campuses a couple of years ago.

The White House condemned such a protest. “Echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organisations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable. We condemn these statements in the strongest terms,” it said.

“Do you condemn the antisemitic protests on college campuses?” reporters asked Biden on Monday. “I condemn the antisemitic protests. That is why I have set up a programme to deal with that. I also condemn those who do not understand what is going on with the Palestinians and their — how they are being,” the president said.

With pro-Palestine protests entering the sixth day, Columbia University’s president announced that classes would be held virtually “to deescalate the rancour and give us all a chance to consider the next steps”.

Meanwhile, Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley demanded that Biden bring in the National Guard to suppress the pro-Palestinian student protests at the Columbia University. On Monday, scores of professors from the university joined their students in support and solidarity.

In Boston, students of the Boston University walked out of class to protest against the arrests of pro-Palestinian student demonstrators at the Columbia University. Students at the Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology also staged a walkout.

According to “Boston Globe”, tensions mounted at campuses in New York and Connecticut as students ramped up protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, occupying tent encampments at MIT, Emerson College and Tufts University. “The rising tension on campuses is the latest challenge faced by universities since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the bombardment of Gaza that has followed, as administrators struggle to strike a balance between supporting free speech and maintaining campus safety,” the daily said.

On Monday, the Harvard College suspended the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and ordered the group to “cease all organisational activities for the remainder of the Spring 2024 term” or risk permanent expulsion, according to an e-mail obtained by the university newspaper, “The Crimson”.

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