A look at the protests of the war in Gaza that have emerged at US colleges (2024)

Student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have popped up at many college campuses following the arrest of demonstrators this month at Columbia University.

The students are calling for universities to separate themselves from companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza — and in some cases from Israel itself. The number of arrests nationwide has approached 1,000 since New York police arrested demonstrators at Columbia on April 18.

Protests on many campuses have been orchestrated by coalitions of student groups. The groups largely act independently, though students say they’re inspired by peers at other universities. Some universities say outsiders have joined student protesters and caused trouble.

The protests have spread to Canada and Europe, with French police removing dozens of students from the Sorbonne university after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the main courtyard.

Officials are trying to resolve the protests as the academic year winds down, but students have dug in at several high-profile universities.

A look at protests on campuses:

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

Columbia spokesperson Ben Chang said the university was beginning to suspend student protesters who defied an ultimatum to leave the encampment there by an afternoon deadline. The university had said protesters who signed a form committing to abide by university policies through June 2025 could finish the semester in good standing. If not, the letter said, they would be suspended, pending further investigation. Protest organizers said they were not aware of any suspensions as of Monday evening.

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Pro-Palestinian student protesters set up the tent encampment at the Ivy League university in New York this month. Police first tried to clear the encampment April 18, when they arrested more than 100 protesters. But the move inspired students across the country and motivated Columbia protesters to regroup.

Columbia activists defied the deadline with chants, clapping and drumming from the encampment of more than 300 people. No officials appeared to enter the encampment, with at least 120 tents staying up as the deadline passed.

Early Tuesday, dozens of protesters took over a building at Columbia, barricading the entrances and unfurling a Palestinian flag out of a window.

Video footage showed protesters locking arms in front of Hamilton Hall and carrying furniture and metal barricades to the building, one of several that was occupied during a 1968 civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protest on the campus.

Commencement is set for May 15. The demonstrations led Columbia to hold remote classes and set a series of deadlines for protesters to leave the encampment.

Columbia’s president, Minouche Shafik, faced a significant, but largely symbolic, rebuke from faculty Friday but retains the support of trustees, who have the power to hire or fire the president.

The protest is the latest in a Columbia tradition that dates back more than five decades — one that also helped provide inspiration for the anti-apartheid protest of the 1980s, the Iraq war protests, and more.

THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN

The University of Texas at Austin on Monday was again the scene of clashing protesters and police, many of whom showed up in riot gear.

About 150 protesters packed into a tight group and sat on the ground as they were encircled by state troopers and police while hundreds of other students and protesters shouted at police every time officers dragged someone away.

After police cleared the original group of demonstrators, hundreds of students and protesters ran to block officers from leaving campus. The officers were caught between buildings and protesters pushed in on them, creating a mass of shoving bodies before police used pepper spray on the crowd and set off flash-bang devices to clear a path for a van to take those arrested off campus.

An attorney said at least 40 people were arrested on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott reposted on social media video of the troopers arriving on the 53,000-student campus. “No encampments will be allowed,” Abbott said.

Just last week, hundreds of police — including some on horseback and holding batons — pushed into protesters at the university, sending some tumbling into the street. Officers made dozens of arrests at the behest of the university and Abbott, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY

Police in riot gear cleared an encampment at Boston’s Northeastern University on Saturday. State police said about 100 protesters were arrested and would be charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Northeastern said in a statement that the demonstration was “infiltrated by professional organizers” with no affiliation to the university and that antisemitic slurs, including “kill the Jews,” had been used. The Huskies for a Free Palestine student group said that counter-protesters were to blame for the slurs and that no student protesters “repeated the disgusting hate speech.”

UNIVERSITY OF MARY WASHINGTON

A dozen people, including nine students, were arrested Saturday after a protest at University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, according to a statement from the university’s president.

Attendees were told Friday that they could stay if they followed university policies, and additional safety guidelines were communicated to organizers, according to the statement. The encampment was prohibited, and tents were not permitted. Tents were taken down Friday night, and the protest continued into Saturday, when they were put back up.

On Saturday evening, attendees were told to leave, according to the president’s statement. After some time, 12 people remaining in Jefferson Square were arrested for trespassing.

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The University of Southern California said Saturday it had temporarily closed its University Park Campus to nonresidents, without providing details of the closure or possible enforcement measures. Joel Curran, senior vice president of communications, said in a statement that USC property was vandalized by members of a group “that has continued to illegally camp on our campus,” as well as disrupting operations and harassing students and others.

Encampment organizers met with university President Carol Folt for about 90 minutes on Monday. Folt declined to discuss details of what was discussed, but said the purpose of the meeting was to allow her to hear the concerns of protesters. “The students said at the end they wouldn’t have considered this meeting a win from their perspective, and I can fully appreciate that,” Folt said in a statement. “For me, the most important point was that we were starting to talk, and I think that was vital.” Another meeting was scheduled for Tuesday.

The university canceled its main stage graduation ceremony, set for May 10. It already canceled a commencement speech by the school’s pro-Palestinian valedictorian, citing safety concerns. The Los Angeles Police Department said more than 90 people were arrested Wednesday during a protest at the university.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES

A few dozen University of California, Los Angeles, faculty members staged a walkout on Monday, joining pro-Palestinian protesters who have been camping around-the-clock on campus. The teachers and other employees said they came out to amplify the demands of demonstrators.

The scene was less tense than on Sunday, when protesters shouted and shoved each other during dueling demonstrations.

Police set up barricades before hundreds of people on both sides joined a growing crowd at UCLA’s Dickson court, near where pro-Palestinian students have been staying round-the-clock in tents. Counter-protesters who organized a “Stand in Support of Jewish Students” rally said their goal was to “stand up against hatred and antisemitism.”

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY

About 50 students at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., set up a tent encampment on the school’s University Yard on Thursday. A group of students and professors staged their own protest walkout and marched to campus to join them. The protesters are demanding that the university divest from Israel and lift a suspension against a prominent pro-Palestinian student group.

Before dawn Monday, demonstrators tore down the metal barricades confining them to the school’s University Yard and set up more than a dozen tents in the middle of a one-block stretch of H street. By midday, there were no signs of conflict and the mood at University Yard was borderline festive. The protest site has evolved into a tightly organized community, with plentiful supplies, volunteers collecting garbage and a detailed list of community guidelines.

The Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement it will continue monitoring the situation and that the protest activity remained peaceful.

The university’s last day of classes before final exams was set for Monday, and commencement is scheduled for May 19. Because of the noise generated by the protests, the university said it would move law school finals to another building from the one where they had originally been scheduled.

VIRGINIA TECH

A protest at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg resulted in 82 arrests, including 53 students, a university spokesperson said Monday.

Protesters began occupying the lawn of the graduate life center Friday, the university said in a statement. The gathering violated university policy, the university said, but was a “safe and peaceful environment” over much of the weekend.

After protesters took further steps to occupy the lawn and outdoor spaces next to a nearby student center Sunday, the university said the situation “had the increasing potential to become unsafe” and advised those gathered to disperse. Those who failed to comply were warned they would be charged with trespassing, the university said.

CALIFORNIA STATE POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY, HUMBOLDT

University officials extended the closure of the campus until May 10 — the end of the semester — saying instruction would continue to be remote, after protesters at the university in Northern California used furniture, tents, chains and zip ties to block entrances to an academic and administrative building April 22. Commencement is scheduled for May 11.

In a statement Sunday night, the university urged people occupying the buildings and camping near them to “leave the campus peacefully now” and said it “continues to talk to anyone willing to have productive and respectful dialogue.”

CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY

More than 20 people were detained and released shortly after an encampment sprang up Monday at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

The protesters had set up tents on the public green and erected a small sign that read, “Welcome to the People’s University for Palestine” as they called on the school’s administration to divest from Israel.

Police soon moved in and dismantled the tents. Those detained at the protest were released a short time later, and it wasn’t clear if they would face any charges or disciplinary action.

YALE UNIVERSITY

Protesters at Yale set up a new encampment with dozens of tents Sunday afternoon, nearly a week after police arrested nearly 50 and cleared a similar camp nearby. They were notified by a Yale official that they could face discipline, including suspension, and possible arrest, protesters and school officials said. No deadline to leave was set.

Yale said in a statement Monday that it supports peaceful protests and freedom of speech but does not tolerate policy violations. School officials said the protest is near residential colleges where students are studying for final exams, and permission must be granted for groups to hold events and put up structures on campus.

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT CHAPEL HILL

Dozens of people idled at an encampment protest at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Monday. Students and other community members sat on blankets chatting while another small group sat around a woman dancing with a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headscarf. The tents were set up Sunday after a march urging the university to divest from Israel.

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY

Police in riot gear at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond sought to break up an encampment there late Monday, clashing with protesters and deploying pepper spray and zip-ties to take protesters into custody.

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

Students at the University of Washington in Seattle set up an encampment Monday morning in front of Miller Hall. About six tents were visible on the grassy area despite a sign that said “no camping allowed” in large letters. The few dozen protesters pinned banners to their tents in support of Gaza under a light drizzle. They are demanding the university cut ties with Boeing, which was founded in Seattle and makes products used by the Israel Defense Forces, and cut ties with study abroad programs that operate in Israel. There was no sign of police activity.

UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA

Police arrested protesters on Monday who tried to set up an encampment at the University of Georgia.

A spokesperson wouldn’t say how many people were arrested on the final day of classes before spring exams at the university northeast of Atlanta. Athens-Clarke County jail records showed 12 people had been booked into the jail by mid-afternoon by University of Georgia police on criminal trespassing charges. State troopers aided university police.

The Red and Black student newspaper reported 16 people were detained at the site.

University President Jere Morehead said in a statement that students were given the chance to make a reservation for a designated protest area and that university police “were left with no choice but to arrest those who refused to comply.” He said any students, faculty or employees who were arrested could face university discipline in addition to criminal penalties.

EMORY UNIVERSITY

After 28 people were apprehended last week at the private Emory University in Atlanta, university President Gregory Fenves on Monday apologized for officials initially claiming that the protesters were from outside the university. Officials determined 22 were Emory students or employees. Fenves said he was ordering a review of when the university should turn to outside police agencies after photos and videos showed people being tackled to the ground and shocked with electric stun guns.

NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said Monday that the school had reached an agreement with students and faculty who represent the majority of protesters on its campus since Thursday.

“This agreement was forged by the hard work of students and faculty working closely with members of the administration,” said a letter posted on the school’s website and featuring the names of school President Michael Schill, Provost Kathleen Hagerty and Student Affairs Vice President Susan Davis.

Northwestern says it will permit peaceful demonstrations that comply with university policies through June 1, which is the end of spring quarter classes. The university says it will allow one aid tent to remain and that all other tents must be removed.

“Acts of antisemitism, anti-Muslim/Arab racism, and hate will not be tolerated, and community members who can be identified participating in such acts will face disciplinary action,” the letter said.

In an Instagram post Monday, the Northwestern University Divestment Coalition said elected representatives of the group approved the deal by a vote of 17-1 and see it as “the floor for our progress going forward, not the ceiling.” The group also said it has much work ahead and that it will not stop now.

UNIVERSITY OF UTAH

Protesters erected an encampment at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday. About two dozen tents were set up on the lawn outside the university president’s office, and roughly 200 students held protest signs and Palestinian flags. Later Monday, dozens of officers in riot gear sought to break up the encampment.

Police dragged students off by their hands and feet, snapping the poles holding up tents and zip-tying those who refused to disperse. Seventeen people were arrested. The university says it’s against code to camp overnight on school property and that the students were given several warnings to disperse before police were called in.

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA

Hundreds of protesters gathered Monday at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, setting up dozens of tents in solidarity with Palestinians. Dozens of students sat in and near the tents while others participated in a Muslim prayer outside on the campus.

The university said earlier Monday in a statement that it was closing several buildings “to ensure the safety of those who work and study on our campus” during protests that are expected to continue on campus in the coming days.

“We urge everyone who engages to remain nonviolent, peaceful, and follow both state laws and University policies, including restrictions prohibiting tents and encampments on campus,” the university added.

Ali Abu, who said he is a student protest organizer, said the students are demanding that the university stop investing in companies that manufacture weapons that are being used in Gaza.

“The point of this is to be as loud and disruptive as possible to campus life because what’s happening in Gaza and what’s happening in Palestine is not normal. So we can’t act like everything is normal,” he said.

Abu said the students plan on staying overnight and “as long as possible,” even weeks, until their demands are met.

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This story has been updated to correct school title to University of Georgia, not University of Georgia-Athens.

A look at the protests of the war in Gaza that have emerged at US colleges (2024)
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