Commentary on Political Economy

Tuesday 30 April 2024


At U.C.L.A., Israel supporters are making themselves known.

Here are the latest developments.

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear arrested pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Columbia University on Tuesday night, about 20 hours after protesters had seized a campus building. The occupation further escalated the crisis that has consumed the school and ignited student activism on dozens of campuses nationwide.

The officers broke a second-floor window to enter the occupied building, Hamilton Hall, then led demonstrators in zip ties onto law enforcement buses parked near campus. In a statement, the university said the building had been “vandalized and blockaded,” leaving administrators with “no choice” but to call the police to campus for the second time in less than two weeks.

“We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation,” the statement added.

Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, said in a letter to the New York Police Department that her decision to request its intervention had been made with the support of the university’s trustees, and that the actions of demonstrators “have become a magnet for protesters outside our gates, which creates significant risk to our campus.”

She asked the police to maintain a presence on campus through at least May 17 to prevent further encampments or occupations.

What to know about Columbia:

  • The latest action came nearly two weeks after the police arrested more than 100 protesters who had set up tents on the Upper Manhattan campus.

  • The arrests on April 18 outraged many faculty members and students, who almost immediately pitched new tents. Since then, the encampment has grown to be larger than the original.

  • The university closed the campus Tuesday to everyone but students who live there, as well as employees who provide essential services, and said it would move to expel any students who had occupied Hamilton Hall, a building with a history of student takeovers.

What’s happening elsewhere:

  • Clashes over the war in Gaza continued to escalate Tuesday, with police officers pepper spraying protesters to prevent the takeover of a building at the City College of New York. Pepper spray was also used this week on demonstrators in Richmond, Va., and Austin, Texas.

  • In Oregon, demonstrators who took over a library at Portland State overnight used wood pallets and other supplies to erect fortifications around the building’s entrance. University officials on Tuesday urged them to leave the library, which was covered in pro-Palestinian messages, and requested help from the police.

  • Police officers moved into an encampment at U.N.C. Chapel Hill early Tuesday and arrested about 30 people, school officials said. Protesters returned later in the day, mowing down a barrier to rejoin the encampment and replacing an American flag at the center of campus with a Palestinian one.

  • There were signs that the disruption might be waning elsewhere. The police managed to end the eight-day occupation of an administration building at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, and Brown students dismantled their encampment after administrators agreed to consider their demands.

  • More than 1,000 protesters have been taken into custody on U.S. campuses since the original roundup at Columbia on April 18, according to a tally by The New York Times. Here’s where the arrests have happened.

Reporting was contributed by Mike Baker, Kimberly Cortez, J. David Goodman, Claire Fahy, Jose Quezada, Jonathan Wolfe and John Yoon

April 30, 2024, 10:25 p.m. ET
7 minutes ago

Olivia Bensimon

Reporting from Columbia University

A second bus filled with arrested protesters just drove off on West 114th Street. The protesters are seated with their hands ziptied behind their backs. “Free Palestine!” one yells from the back row. As the bus turns onto Amsterdam Avenue, a crowd of people cheers and claps for the protesters.

Credit... Dave Sanders for The New York Times 30, 2024, 10:23 p.m. ET
8 minutes ago

Connor Michael Greene

Reporting from Columbia University

A group of roughly 100 police officers are dispersing the last of the protesters on campus, as the last chant on main campus ends. Some are being pushed by officers. One woman has been arrested for not leaving.

Eryn Davis

Reporting from the campus of Columbia University

A cluster of police officers at Columbia remains outside the entrance of Hamilton Hall. A little more than a dozen protesters continue to chant in the rain from the other side of the building.

Credit... Dave Sanders for The New York Times
April 30, 2024, 10:08 p.m. ET
24 minutes ago

Olivia Bensimon

Reporting from Columbia University

Carlos Nieves, the police department's assistant commissioner of public information, told a gaggle of reporters outside Columbia's campus that “no tear gas was used inside the campus.” He added for emphasis, “The N.Y.P.D. does not use tear gas.”

April 30, 2024, 9:57 p.m. ET
34 minutes ago

At the University of California, Los Angeles, the sprawling pro-Palestinian encampment stands out for at least two reasons: its tight cordon of metal barriers and wooden pallets — and the daily presence of counterprotesters waving Israeli flags.

Few campuses have had dueling protests as intense as the ones at U.C.L.A. ever since demonstrators established their encampment Thursday in the shadow of Royce Hall, the signature brick building whose towers have graced many a school brochure.

The faceoffs have tested the patience of U.C.L.A. leaders, who are following a systemwide policy of avoiding law enforcement action unless “absolutely necessary to protect the physical safety of our campus community.” That approach stands in contrast to campuses like the University of Southern California across town and the University of Texas at Austin, where protesters have been arrested for refusing to leave.

On Sunday, the Israeli American Council, which has denounced pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses as “overtly antisemitic,” hosted a rally at U.C.L.A. that drew thousands of people. Organizers set up a stage and a large screen near the pro-Palestinian encampment, then led prayers, hosted speakers and welcomed performers who sang Israeli pop songs.

But tempers also flared, with shouting matches and scuffles between the two sides, including altercations after an encampment barrier was breached.

“UCLA has a long history of being a place of peaceful protest, and we are heartbroken about the violence that broke out,” Mary Osako, the university’s vice chancellor for strategic communications, said in a statement that day, vowing to increase security.

On Monday night, another fight broke out between two groups of protesters after about 60 pro-Israel demonstrators attempted to enter the pro-Palestinian encampment. Campus police had to break up the dispute.

“While the demonstration remains largely peaceful, our campus must remain a place where we treat one another with respect and recognize our shared humanity — not a place where we devolve into violence and bullying,” Ms. Osako said in another statement.

Pro-Israeli protesters began arriving at the encampment almost immediately after it was first set up. For the past several days, they have waved Israeli flags, spoken through megaphones, played music through loudspeakers and held up images of some of the hostages captured by Hamas on Oct. 7.

Several protesters wearing kaffiyehs have serious looks on their faces while looking at a bald man with a stern composure who is wearing a black shirt that has an American flag.
Pro-Palestinian protesters have come face to face daily with Israel supporters at the University of California, Los Angeles. Credit... Mark Abramson for The New York Times

On Tuesday, a large screen near the encampment played footage from the Hamas-led terrorist attack on Israel. At noon, a plane flying a “Jewish Lives Matter” banner circled the campus.

Many Jewish groups say the campus protests have created a climate hostile toward Jewish students. The Israeli American Council has responded by holding “support rallies” across the nation similar to the one Sunday at U.C.L.A., including events in Atlanta and Orange County, Calif., on Wednesday.

Asher Taxon, a freshman at U.C.L.A. who is Jewish, said the Sunday rally gave him a much-needed boost.

“It was great, it felt like we’re still here and that they can’t get rid of us,” Mr. Taxon said. “It was nice seeing other Jews and Israelis singing and dancing and showing that we are supported.”

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators said Tuesday that the daily counter-demonstrations at U.C.L.A. had been emotionally and mentally exhausting.

The “actions and behavior of these counterprotesters is indicative of the treatment of the people on the ground in Gaza,” said Kaia Shah, a researcher and recent U.C.L.A. graduate. “What this has done to the people in our encampment is made them even more passionate about our cause.”

By Tuesday afternoon, a truckload of additional metal gates arrived near the encampment site. It was not immediately clear who had provided them.

 30, 2024, 6:30 p.m. ET
4 hours ago

Brown students end their encampment as the university agrees to talk divestment.

Two students embracing in front of a tent outside.
Students embracing as they begin to dissolve the encampment on the Main Green at Brown University in Providence, R.I., on Tuesday. Credit... C.J. Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock

As pro-Palestinian protests continued to escalate across the country, officials and students at Brown University set a rare example on Tuesday: They made a deal.

Demonstrators agreed to dismantle their encampment at Brown, which had been removed by Tuesday evening, and university leaders said they would discuss, and later vote on, divesting funds from companies connected to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The agreement came even as scenes of chaos continued to overtake U.S. universities, with protesters at Columbia in New York and Portland State in Oregon occupying buildings, and demonstrators at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill replacing an American flag at the center of campus with a Palestinian one.

More than a thousand people have been arrested over the past two weeks after a crackdown on a pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia in New York resulted in a cascade of student activism across the country.

At Brown, in Providence, R.I., students began pitching tents on the main campus lawn on Wednesday. Many said they would stay until they were forced out, adding that they were concerned about trying to end the violence in Gaza — not about violating university policies.

After discussions with administrators, Brown Divest Coalition and Jewish Voice for Peace said in a joint post on Instagram that they had reached an agreement with the university, which “would not have been possible without the hard work of university encampments across the country, whose collective power has forced university administrators to acknowledge the overwhelming support for Palestine on their campuses.”

The agreement lays out a series of steps for the months ahead:

  • In May, five students will meet with five members of the Corporation of Brown University to argue for divesting funds from companies connected to the Israeli military.

  • In September, Brown’s advisory committee on resource management will be expected to advise the university on the same issue.

  • In October, the committee’s recommendation will be brought to the corporation for a vote.

“Although the encampment will end, organizing to ensure that the Brown administration fulfills our calls to act on divestment will continue until the corporation vote in October,” the Brown Divest Coalition said in a statement on Tuesday.

“This feels like a real moment of realizing our collective power,” said Rafi Ash, a sophomore at Brown who participated in the protests. “This is something that demonstrates that the mobilization of the student body can force the university to listen.”

A spokesman for Brown, Brian Clark, said that divestment was not as simple as some students might perceive, though. The university doesn’t invest its endowment directly, he said. Instead, it relies on “external specialist investment managers, all with the highest level of ethics and all whom we believe share the values of the Brown community.”

Administrators said in a statement that it would still hold disciplinary proceedings related to the encampment, which broke the university’s rules. Reports of harassment and discrimination will also be investigated, the statement said.

“The devastation and loss of life in the Middle East has prompted many to call for meaningful change, while also raising real issues about how best to accomplish this,” Christina H. Paxson, Brown’s president, said in the statement, adding that she did not condone the encampment and had been concerned about inflammatory rhetoric.

“I appreciate the sincere efforts on the part of our students to take steps to prevent further escalation,” she said.

Gaya Gupta contributed reporting.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, speaking before a Senate panel, calls campus antisemitism ‘abhorrent.’

A tent encampment at Columbia University.
A student encampment at Columbia University in New York on Monday. Credit... Bing Guan for The New York Times

Education Secretary Miguel A. Cardona said on Tuesday that the threats against Jewish students reported at Columbia and other colleges were “abhorrent” and that his department would continue to pursue more than 130 investigations into complaints of harassment.

Testifying before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee about the Education Department’s budget requests, Mr. Cardona ran into pointed questions about campus protests over the war in Gaza.

“Hate has no place on our campuses, and I’m very concerned with the reports of antisemitism,” he said. “I’ve spoken to Jewish students who have feared going to class as a result of some of the harassment that they’re facing on campuses.”

“It’s unacceptable,” he added.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the Education Department is responsible for enforcing a prohibition against discrimination based on “race, color or national origin” at any institution that receives federal assistance. Mr. Cardona stressed on Tuesday that the department’s Office for Civil Rights was investigating the complaints it had received.

But some Republicans on the subcommittee complained that the pace of the investigations, which require extensive interviews and can take months to resolve, was inappropriately slow and encouraged Mr. Cardona to take punitive actions.

“I mean, that’s good; I’m glad you’re doing that,” said Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the subcommittee’s top Republican. “But you have more immediate means at your disposal, for instance removing federal funds.”

Mr. Cardona replied, “Ultimately, if a school refuses to comply with Title VI, yes, we would remove federal dollars.”

The department does not comment on open Title VI investigations, and the 137 investigations that Mr. Cardona cited on Tuesday almost certainly include a mix of complaints about antisemitism and anti-Arab or anti-Muslim harassment at various institutions.

But as campus protests have erupted across the country in recent days, it has fallen predominately to college administrators to enforce campus codes, hand down punishments and make difficult decisions about how to balance students’ freedoms of expression and assembly with campus safety considerations.

And while Republicans in Congress have repeatedly sought to highlight antisemitic threats, demanding answers from the presidents of Columbia, Harvard and other schools as well as top administration officials, the Education Department has repeatedly warned of heated rhetoric turning into violence or discrimination against students of all backgrounds, including Jewish, Israeli, Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students.

 30, 2024, 5:11 p.m. ET
5 hours ago

Tensions rise at U.N.C. Chapel Hill after dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators are detained.

Video player loading
Protesters at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, clashed with police officers working to restore an American flag that the demonstrators had replaced with a Palestinian one. Credit Credit... Bryan Anderson

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill turned chaotic on Tuesday, hours after dozens of students were detained for refusing to leave an encampment they had set up over the weekend outside Wilson Library on campus.

By the afternoon, several hundred students had broken through the barriers keeping them out of the encampment, erupting in chants of “Free Palestine” and calling on the university to divest from investments that support Israel.

The scene escalated when protesters replaced an American flag in the center of campus with a Palestinian one, and demonstrators reportedly threw water on law enforcement officers and school officials as they tried to restore the U.S. flag back onto the pole.

“It’s clear that the university has chosen its side,” said Shahad Mustafa, a 21-year-old senior who began to flee as officers approached the flagpole. “They are choosing to still support Israel regardless of what their students are saying. They are showing us that they are willing to use violence and willing to lie.”

School officials said 36 protesters had been detained after they were given until 6 a.m. on Tuesday to clear out from the encampment or face possible arrest, suspension or expulsion. Of those, 30 people, including 10 university students, were cited for trespassing and released. Six more, including three students, were booked on trespassing charges at the county jail.

On the other end of the quad on Tuesday afternoon, a handful of students held Israeli flags. Trevor Lan, a Jewish student who stood with the group, told The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., that the encampment and recent protests marked the first time he felt “threatened” on campus.

“They took down the U.S. flag,” Mr. Lan told the news outlet. “For those of you who didn’t care about Israel and didn’t care about the Jewish people, look at it now. This is what this evolves into.”

The clashes at U.N.C. Chapel Hill came as North Carolina was still mourning the death of four officers who were killed a day earlier trying to serve arrests warrants to a man in Charlotte, about two hours away, in what was one of the deadliest shootouts for American law enforcement in recent years.

Four other officers were also wounded. Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina had ordered all flags at half-staff to honor the slain officers.

On Tuesday, the lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, criticized the U.N.C. Chapel Hill protesters and their actions as “nonsense” that “should never have happened to begin with.”

“Especially after what we saw last night in Charlotte, our police officers need to be treated with respect, and lawlessness needs to end,” said Mr. Robinson, a Republican who is running for North Carolina governor.

More than 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested on campuses across the country after a crackdown on demonstrators at Columbia University in New York this month spawned a wave of activism at universities.

Anna Betts contributed reporting.

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