Columbia University scraps deadline for dismantling pro-Palestinian protest camp

People stand near Palestinian flags and tents at an encampment set up by pro-Palestinian protesters on the campus of Columbia University in New York on April 25, 2024.

Columbia University backed away from a deadline late Thursday, April 25, for pro-Palestinian protesters to leave an encampment there, as more college campuses across the United States sought to prevent occupations from taking hold.

The office of New York-based Columbia University President Minouche Shafik issued a statement at 11:07 p.m. (4:07 a.m. Friday) backing away from a midnight deadline to dismantle a large tent camp housing about 200 students . “The talks have shown progress and are continuing as planned,” the statement said. “We have our demands, they have theirs.” The statement denied that the New York City Police Department had been invited to the campus. “This rumor is false,” it said.

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Student demonstrators say they are expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where the death toll has surpassed 34,305, according to the Hamas-held territory’s health ministry. More than 200 people protesting the war were arrested on Wednesday and early Thursday at universities in Los Angeles, Boston and Austin, Texas, where about 2,000 people gathered again on Thursday.

Riot police officers in the southern state of Georgia used chemical irritants and Tasers to disperse protests at Emory University in Atlanta. Photos showed police wielding Tasers as they struggled with protesters on manicured lawns. Atlanta police said officers responding to the school’s request for help were “confronted with force” and used “chemical irritants” in their response.

The spreading protests began at Columbia University, which remains the epicenter of the student protest movement.

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coast to coast

At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, 93 people were arrested for trespassing on Wednesday, authorities said, and the university canceled events during its May 10 graduation ceremony.

The ceremony, which usually draws 65,000 people, made headlines this month when administrators canceled a planned speech by a top student after complaints from Jewish groups that she had ties to anti-Semitic groups. She denied the accusation.

At Boston’s Emerson College, local media reported that classes were canceled Thursday after police clashed with protesters overnight, demolishing a pro-Palestinian encampment and arresting 108 people. In Washington, students from Georgetown and George Washington University (GW) set up a solidarity camp on the GW campus on Thursday.

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Protests and encampments have also sprung up at New York University and Yale — where dozens of students were also arrested earlier this week — at Harvard, Brown University, MIT, the University of Michigan and elsewhere.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, said its campus could remain closed until next week as protesters occupy buildings.

Le Monde with AFP