Campuses in chaos: Over 100 arrested as anti-Israel protests spread across the US

Police have been called to disperse demonstrations at universities in Texas, California and Rhode Island as student activists follow encampment model at Columbia University


USC public safety officers detain a pro-Palestine demonstrator during clashes after officers attempted to take down an encampment in support of Gaza at the University of Southern California on 24 April, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. Pro-Palestinian encampments have sprung up at college campuses around the country recently. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Universities across the US are facing mounting pressure to deal with pro-Palestine student protests as a wave of campus demonstrations overnight lead to disorder and arrests.

Following the model of the week-long ongoing encampment of pro-Palestine protesters at Columbia University, students at the University of Southern California (USC), Brown University, University of Texas in Austin and countless others have begun staging their own demonstrations to pressure their universities to divest from Israeli-linked companies.

At USC, police officers in riot gear arrested 93 people on trespassing charges after the university’s Department of Public Safety ordered protesters gathering at the campus’ Alumni Park on Wednesday afternoon to disperse or face arrest.

The official USC account on X posted an update early Thursday morning, writing that the protest has ended but “the campus remains closed until further notice.”

Meanwhile, two members of the media were arrested during protests at the University of Texas at Austin, where local and state police clashed with pro-Palestinian demonstrators on Wednesday morning.

More than 500 students at UT-Austin participated in a walk-out in support of Palestine, which turned chaotic when students refused to disperse after multiple orders by officers. According to the Texas Tribune, at least 34 people were arrested.

Texas governor Greg Abbott wrote in a statement on X: “Arrests being made right now & will continue until the crowd disperses. These protesters belong in jail. Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period. Students joining in hate-filled, antisemitic at any public college or university in Texas should be expelled.”

UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell praised the school and law enforcement for showing “extraordinary restraint,” and said the organisers of the protest intended to violate school policies, referring to the Palestine Solidarity Committee’s invitation for students to “occupy” the campus’ South Lawn.

“The group that led this protest stated it was going to violate Institutional Rules,” Hartzell said. “Our rules matter, and they will be enforced. Our University will not be occupied. The protesters tried to deliver on their stated intent to occupy campus. People not affiliated with UT joined them, and many ignored University officials' continual pleas for restraint and to immediately disperse."

At Brown University in Rhode Island, roughly 80 students began an “indefinite encampment” early on Wednesday morning to call for the Ivy League university to divest from companies linked to the Israeli government, according to the Brown Daily Herald. In a video posted to X on Wednesday, students can be seen with a sign reading “Brown invests in the Palestinian genocide” as they set up tents on the university’s Main Green.

Brown University Provost Francis Doyle sent an email to community members on Tuesday afternoon, warning that while an “encampment itself is not an arrestable offense, it is a violation of University policy” and may lead to disciplinary action “up to and including separation from the institution.”

“The larger and the longer an encampment lasts, and the more disruptive it becomes, the more serious the outcomes of the conduct process will necessarily become,” Doyle said.

On Wednesday, Brown University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald: “We have been troubled by reports of violence, harassment and intimidation at some encampments on other campuses, but we have not seen that kind of behavior at Brown. Any such behavior would not be tolerated.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the campus protests in a video message on Wednesday, stating: “What’s happening in America’s college campuses is horrific. Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty.”

The protests were praised by several of Israel’s enemies including Hamas and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Hamas terror group said in a statement: “The American administration, led by President Biden, violates individual rights and the right to expression, and arrests university students and faculty members because of their rejection of the genocide that our Palestinian people are subjected to in the Gaza Strip at the hands of the neo-Nazi Zionists, without the slightest sense of shame about the legal value represented by the students and university professors.”

He called the response of several university presidents “shameful.”

USC President Carol Folt has not commented publicly on the demonstrations and has not responded to the JC’s request for comment. Christina Paxson, president of Brown University, has also remained silent on the matter and has not responded to the JC’s request for comment.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik has faced calls for resignation over her lukewarm response to allegations of antisemitism at the elite university and spoke before Congress last week to defend the school’s efforts to combat campus antisemitism.

British-Palestinian peace activist John Aziz said he and American-Palestinian activist Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib were both blocked on X by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, the group behind the encampment on Columbia University’s campus. Aziz, who has been a vocal critic of the anti-Israel campus protests, wrote in a statement on X: “I've never interacted with them before but the Twitter account for the Columbia student organisers @ColumbiaSJP pre-emptively blocked not only me but also @afalkhatib who lost many family members in Gaza. The ‘pro-Palestinians’ are blocking the pro-peace Palestinians.”

Addressing Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine’s position, Alkhatib said in a statement on X: “This is what losing the plot looks like, at a time of rising empathy & solidarity with the Palestinian cause, these students, heavily involved in the Columbia protests, decided that the best thing to do is take an extremist, maximalist, inflammatory, unreasonable, and totally illogical approach which is harmful to the pro-Palestinian cause.”

Protests have also been reported at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Miami University in Ohio and Temple University in Philadelphia.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive