US

Dozens arrested in US as student protests over Gaza spread across country

Chaos engulfed campuses across the United States as pro-Palestinian student protests spread to universities across the length and breadth of this country. 

A movement which started at Columbia University on the east coast has now spread to the north, south and west.

At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles at least 93 people were arrested during a volatile three-hour standoff between protesters and the police.

A protester is detained at the University of Southern California. Pic: AP
Image:
A protester is detained at the University of Southern California. Pic: AP

Police officers turned out in force. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

One young woman, wearing an Arab scarf, threw a bottle of water at officers and was tackled to the ground before being handcuffed and taken to a waiting police van.

Others, who had formed a protest circle after police issued a dispersal order, were handcuffed one by one and frogmarched off campus by Los Angeles police officers.

Dozens of people were detained by police
Image:
Dozens of people were detained by police

The day had started relatively peacefully as hundreds of students gathered on the main lawn on campus.

Police did intervene to remove a number of tents that had been erected, but people holding signs which called for a ceasefire in Gaza soon filled the space.

As classes finished for the day, police issued a dispersal order, telling protesters over a loudspeaker that they had 10 minutes to clear the area or they would be arrested.

A group of at least 50 students remained, linking arms and chanting, “free, free, Palestine”. Some used a black marker pen to scribble on their arms the number of a helpline to call from prison.

Students protesting at the University of Southern California. Pic Reuters
Image:
Police officers turned out in force. Pic Reuters

“Are you scared of being arrested?” I asked one young woman. “No,” she replied. “I think the children in Gaza are more scared than me.”

I asked another why she feels so passionate about taking a stand on a war unfolding more than seven thousand miles away. “We know that we’re on the right side of this right now,” she said, “and if we’re not going to do this, then who is?”

Los Angeles Police said around 93 people were arrested

The students here say they have two core aims. They are demanding that their university cuts all financial ties with Israel and that their country stops sending them weapons.

Amid the peaceful chants are potentially inflammatory songs about the state of Israel.

Campus protests have intensified in recent days

I asked one young man if he is concerned Jewish students may feel threatened and isolated on their own campus.

“None of the chants or anything that we’ve said is inherently antisemitic,” he said, “nor is the call for the liberation of Palestine inherently antisemitic”.

Read more:
More than 100 arrested as campus protests spread

Demonstrations are expected to continue across the US
Image:
Demonstrations are expected to continue across the US

As night fell, police here concluded that the best way to end today’s standoff was with more force.

My team watched as an officer pushed one young man to the floor and another woman was pushed back with a police baton.

They may have brought the protests to an end today but there is every chance they will erupt again in the days to come.

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