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More than 2,100 people arrested during Gaza solidarity protests at universities and colleges nationwide

  An encampment of approximately 50 tents formed on  Columbia University 's campus on April 17 kickstarted Gaza solidarity protests in u...

 An encampment of approximately 50 tents formed on Columbia University's campus on April 17 kickstarted Gaza solidarity protests in universities and colleges nationwide. To date, over 2,100 have been arrested in the past two weeks, including students, faculty and allegedly "outside agitators" as the police force ramped up the crackdown on said rallies.

The uprising is in response to Israel's genocidal offensive in Gaza which has killed over 35,000 Palestinians, including around 14,000 children. The majority of demonstrations have called for the divestment from companies that support Israel and the war in Gaza.

One day after the protests began, the university authorized the New York Police Department (NYPD) and more than 100 of the protesters were arrested right away. Said nabbing triggered a movement on college campuses across the country, including at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of California, Los Angeles. On April 30, about 300 student protesters were arrested in a raid in Columbia and the City College of New York. The next day, law enforcement apprehended at least a dozen people at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As final exams and graduation approaches, school administrators are pressured to return order in schools. Police are all out in the arrests. According to the Washington Post, police have dispersed campus rallies with tear gas in Florida. In Wisconsin, photos showed officers detaining a Madison professor with blood smeared on his forehead. In California, masked men attacked a pro-Palestinian encampment on a Los Angeles campus and students criticized police for not intervening sooner. Fifteen injuries, including a hospitalization, were reported after officers quelled the violence. 

One student group involved in the demonstrations posted on social media that NYPD had injured "multiple" students, who went to the hospital with "swollen faces from being kicked repeatedly." But at a news conference, Deputy Commissioner Tarik Sheppard claimed that the "overwhelming majority" of arrests involved "no injuries, no real scuffles with police."

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tried to downplay the nationwide protests. "We are talking about a small group of students who are disrupting that ability for students to have that academic experience," she said. "That is incredibly important. And we also have to condemn hate. … That is something that this president believes."

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned pro-Palestinian protests at American universities and called them "horrific." He calls for them to "stop" the protests and he called the students involved as antisemitic.

"What's happening in America's college campuses is horrific," Netanyahu said in a statement. "Antisemitic mobs have taken over leading universities. They call for the annihilation of Israel. They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty. It's unconscionable. It has to be stopped."  

Shafik calls last two weeks "the most difficult" in Columbia University's history

In a video released online, Columbia President Minouche Shafik expressed how the last two weeks were "among the most difficult in Columbia's history," in connection to the Gaza solidarity protests happening in the university that has led to arrests and some, violent interactions between the demonstrators and law enforcement.

Shafik added that the turmoil, tension, division and disruption have impacted the entire community. She put it out there that the students have "paid an especially high price" by losing out on the final days of the year in classrooms and residence halls.

"For those of you who are seniors, you're finishing college the same way you started: online," she stated. "We tried very hard to resolve the issue of the encampment through dialogue. Many of the people who gathered there were largely peaceful and cared deeply about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza."

According to Shafik, the issues that are currently challenging the public, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, antisemitism, anti-Arab and Islamophobic bias, have existed for a long time. She called on everybody's cooperation as "Columbia cannot solve these issues single-handedly."

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