Police break up anti-Israel student protest at prestigious Paris university

Most students agree to leave Sciences Po campus, with police dispersing small group remaining; protesters demand university cut ties with institutions linked to ‘genocide in Gaza’

Protesters set up an anti-Israel encampment at Sciences Po University, Paris, France, April 25, 2024. (X video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Protesters set up an anti-Israel encampment at Sciences Po University, Paris, France, April 25, 2024. (X video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

PARIS — French police broke up an anti-Israel protest by dozens of university students in Paris, officials said Thursday, as Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza sparks a wave of anger across college campuses in the United States.

Police intervened as dozens of students gathered on a central Paris campus of the prestigious Sciences Po University on Wednesday evening, management said.

“After discussions with management, most of them agreed to leave the premises,” university officials said in a statement to AFP, saying the protest was adding to “tensions” at the university.

But “a small group of students” refused to leave, and “it was decided that the police would evacuate the site,” the statement added.

Sciences Po said it regretted that “numerous attempts” to have the students leave the premises peacefully had led nowhere.

According to the police prefecture, students had set up around 10 tents.

When members of law enforcement arrived, “50 students left on their own, 70 were evacuated calmly from 12:20 a.m.” and the police “left at 1:30 a.m., with no incidents to report,” the police said.

The protesters demanded that Sciences Po “cut its ties with universities and companies that are complicit in the genocide in Gaza” and “end the repression of pro-Palestinian voices on campus,” according to witnesses.

‘Deeply worrying’

The protest was organized by the Palestine Committee of Sciences Po.

In a statement on Thursday, the group said its activists had been “carried out of the school by more than fifty members of the security forces,” adding that “around a hundred” police officers were “also waiting for them outside.”

Sciences Po management “stubbornly refuses to engage in genuine dialogue,” the group said.

The organizers have called for “a clear condemnation of Israel’s actions by Sciences Po” and a commemorative event “in memory of the innocent people killed by Israel,” among other demands.

Separately, the Student Union of Sciences Po Paris said the decision by university officials to call in the police was “both shocking and deeply worrying” and reflected “an unprecedented authoritarian turn.”

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

The protests in Paris are an extension of the anti-Israel protests across universities in the US over the last week, as students demand that schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they claim are enabling its monthlong war with Hamas.

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.

France is home to the world’s largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe’s biggest Muslim community.

The Israel-Hamas war erupted when 3,000 terrorists poured across the border with Israel on October 7 in an unprecedented Hamas-led massacre that resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people, mostly civilians, while 253 were kidnapped to Gaza.

The ensuing Israeli offensive has killed over 34,000 people, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry. This figure cannot be independently verified and includes over 13,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed since the beginning of the war. The IDF says 261 of its soldiers have been killed in the fighting.

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