A look at Gaza war protests that have emerged at US colleges, campus by campus

Dozens arrested as students from Massachusetts to California gather for rowdy rallies, which some Jewish students say have veered into antisemitism

University of Southern California protesters fight with University Public Safety officers as they try to remove tents at the campus' Alumni Park during a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel occupation in Los Angeles, on April 24, 2024. (Richard Vogel/AP)
University of Southern California protesters fight with University Public Safety officers as they try to remove tents at the campus' Alumni Park during a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel occupation in Los Angeles, on April 24, 2024. (Richard Vogel/AP)

American student protests demanding universities stop doing business with Israel amid the ongoing Gaza war have popped up on an increasing number of college campuses, following last week’s arrest of more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University.

Protests Wednesday on the campuses of at least two universities involved clashes with police, while another university shut down its campus for the rest of the week.

Inspired by ongoing protests and the arrests last week of more than 100 students at Columbia, students from Massachusetts to California have gathered by the hundreds on campuses, setting up tent camps and pledging to stay put until their demands are met.

The students are calling for universities to separate themselves from any companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza — and in some cases from Israel itself.

Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus, partly prompting a heavier hand from universities.

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.

Below is a look at events at various campuses.

Columbia University

Pro-Palestinian student protesters set up a tent encampment at the Ivy League university in New York last week. Police arrested more than 100 protesters while trying to clear the encampment on Thursday. But the move backfired, motivating Columbia protesters to regroup and acting as an inspiration for other students across the country.

A Palestinian flag is displayed at a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstration encampment at Columbia University in New York on April 24, 2024. (Stefan Jeremiah/AP)

University officials said early Wednesday that they were extending a deadline for protesters to clear out. They said the demonstrators had committed to removing a significant number of tents and agreed that only students would remain at the encampment.

They also said they would make the encampment more welcoming by banning any discriminatory language or harassing messages. The encampment on the upper Manhattan campus appeared calm and a little smaller on Wednesday morning.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia on Wednesday to meet with Jewish students over concerns about antisemitism on college campuses.

Johnson said Israel and Jewish students on campus will not stand alone. Protesters nearby said they couldn’t hear him and he responded, “Enjoy your free speech.”

University of Texas at Austin

Dozens of police officers and state troopers, including some on horseback and holding batons, forcefully arrested more than two dozen student protesters and a local news photographer at the University of Texas at Austin Wednesday after university officials and the governor called authorities.

Protesters said they had planned a walkout and march to the main campus lawn, where students would occupy the space and host events throughout the afternoon. But the university said in a statement that it would “not tolerate disruptions” like those at other campuses.

A person is detained by police as pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel students protest on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, on April 24, 2024. (Suzanne CORDEIRO / AFP)

As of Wednesday night, 34 people had been arrested related to the protest, according to a post on the social platform X by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Agency spokesperson Sheridan Nolen said troopers had responded at the request of university officials and Gov. Greg Abbott.

Abbott said on X that the protesters belong in jail and that any student who joins what he called hate-filled, antisemitic protests at any public college or university in the state should be expelled.

A photographer covering the demonstration for local Fox affiliate, Fox 7 Austin, was among those arrested after being caught in a push-and-pull between law enforcement and students. The station confirmed the arrest in its online story.

Another journalist was knocked down in the mayhem and was seen bleeding before police helped him to emergency medical staff, who bandaged his head.

In a statement, University President Jay Hartzell said that peaceful protests within the university’s rules are acceptable but that breaking of rules and disrupting others’ ability to learn are not allowed.

“Our rules matter, and they will be enforced,” his statement said. “Our University will not be occupied.”

University of Southern California

Los Angeles police began arresting protesters Wednesday evening at the University of Southern California in an effort to clear the center of the university’s main campus. The university posted on X that it had closed campus and that police would arrest people who did not leave.

Earlier in the day police removed several tents, then got into a back-and-forth tent-tugging match with protesters before falling back. At one point, USC police detained a man and put him in a vehicle. A crowd surrounded the car and chanted “Let him go!” and the officers eventually did so. The man waved at demonstrators to indicate they should return to the park.

Ohio State University

Two pro-Palestinian students participating in a protest on campus were arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal trespassing, after “repeated warnings to be quiet,” said university spokesperson Ben Johnson.

About 50 protesters had gathered at a campus amphitheater to share stories about their connections to the Palestinian people before marching. While stopping at a building on the university’s medical campus, two individuals became “disruptive,” Johnson said. Per university policy, the students who were arrested will be referred to the student conduct office.

Pro-Palestinian supporters from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) rally at an anti-Israel encampment at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on April 22, 2024. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP)

Harvard University

Trying to stay ahead of protests, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, locked most gates into its famous Harvard Yard ahead of classes Monday and limited access to those with school identification.

The school also posted signs warning against setting up tents or tables on campus without permission. Those efforts didn’t stop protesters from setting up a camp with 14 tents Wednesday, which came after a rally against the university’s suspension of the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt

Students at the university used furniture, tents, chains, and zip ties to block entrances to an academic and administrative building on Monday. Protesters chanted, “We are not afraid of you!” before officers in riot gear pushed into them at the building’s entrance, video shows.

University officials closed the campus through this weekend, saying instruction would continue to be remote. They said in a statement Tuesday that students had occupied a second building and three students had been arrested. On Wednesday officials said some unidentified people who are not students were also inside one of the occupied buildings. Humboldt is located about 300 miles (480 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

Emerson College

About 80 students and other supporters at Emerson College occupied a busy courtyard on the downtown Boston campus Tuesday.

College officials on Wednesday warned the students that some of the protesters were in violation of city ordinances, including by blocking a right-of-way and fire hydrants and violating noise laws. The school said the alley where some protesters have set up tents is owned by the city, and Boston police have warned of imminent law enforcement action. The college said in a statement that campus police were offering escort services for students after officials received credible reports of some protesters engaging in “targeted harassment and intimidation of Jewish supporters of Israel.”

New York University

At New York University, an encampment set up by students swelled to hundreds of protesters earlier this week. Police on Wednesday said that 133 protesters had been taken into custody. They said all were released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges.

University of Michigan

An encampment at the center of the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor had grown to about 40 tents on Tuesday. Almost every student there wore a mask, which was handed to them when they entered. Student protesters declined to identify themselves to reporters, saying they feared retribution by the university. One student stood near the encampment passing out small Israeli flags, saying he didn’t want Jewish students walking through campus to only see the protesters.

University of Michigan computer science junior Josh Brown, center, hands out miniature Israeli flags while standing in front of a banner reading ‘LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA,’ in Ann Arbor, Michigan, April 23, 2024. The banner is part of a protest by students and groups demanding the Ann Arbor school divest from companies that do business with Israel. (AP Photo/Corey Williams)

University of Minnesota

US Rep. Ilhan Omar attended a protest at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, hours after nine demonstrators were arrested when police took down an encampment in front of the library. Hundreds had rallied to demand their release. Omar’s daughter was among the protesters arrested at Columbia last week.

On Wednesday, more than 80 professors and assistant professors signed a letter calling on the University of Minnesota’s president to drop any charges, lift any ban on the arrestees’ presence on campus and to allow future encampments.

Yale University

Police arrested 48 protesters, including four who were not students, after they refused to leave an encampment on a plaza at the center of Yale University’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut, on Monday.

University of California, Berkley

Protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, had set up about 30 tents as of Tuesday.

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