Pro-Palestine student protests spread in second week of demonstrations

Large-scale demonstrations take place in US universities and on European streets amid arrests and clashes with police.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations continue in universities across the United States, as they also spread to schools in Europe and Australia.

In the second week of protests calling for a ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, thousands of students are calling on dozens of universities to divest from Israel.

Some universities have been forced to cancel their graduation ceremonies, while others have seen entire buildings occupied by protesting students.

One of the latest to join the movement is The City University of New York (CUNY), where hundreds of students have set up an encampment on campus with banners with slogans like “No More Investment in Apartheid”.

Gabby Aossey, a student organiser at the CUNY protest told Al Jazeera the mobilisation of young pro-Palestinian people in the US is “beautiful to see”.

“Young people are really starting to show up and demand that schools are held accountable for their relationship with the Israeli colonisation,” Aossey said.

Across the US, university leaders have tried, and largely failed, to quell the demonstrations. The police have intervened violently, with videos emerging from different states showing hundreds of students – and even faculty members – being forcefully arrested.

Early on Saturday, police in riot gear cleared an encampment on the campus of Northeastern University in Boston. Several dozen students shouted and booed at them from a distance, but the scene was otherwise not confrontational.

The school said in a statement that the demonstration, which began two days ago, had become “infiltrated by professional organisers” with no affiliation to the school and protesters had used anti-Semitic slurs.

“We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus,” the statement posted on the social media platform X said.

At Columbia University, where more than 100 pro-Palestinian activists were arrested by armed police officers on campus about a week ago, university leaders said in a statement on Friday that if the university calls the New York Police Department again, it would “further inflame what is happening on campus”.

Some university leaders and state officials have strongly condemned the protests, calling them “anti-Semitic”.

Demonstrators reject the accusation, with many Jewish activists and some Orthodox Jews joining the ranks.

“As a child of Holocaust survivors, it disturbs me to my core to see my own people perpetrating something that we’ve been through,” Jewish antiwar protester Sam Koprak told Al Jazeera at a campus gathering.

‘End complicity with genocide’

The protests, which have sprouted all around the globe in the near seven-month period since the start of the war on Gaza, continue to spread this week outside the US as well.

In Berlin, activists set up a camp in front of parliament to demand the German government stop exporting arms to Israel. At the renowned Sciences Po university in the French capital Paris, protesters on Friday blockaded a central campus building, forcing classes to be held online.

The latest pro-Palestine rally in Sweden on Saturday saw people marching in the streets to chants of “Free Palestine” and “Boycott Israel”.

Hundreds gathered on Saturday afternoon in central London in solidarity with Palestinians, with a smaller group organising a pro-Israel event.

“People are gathering here on Parliament Square just outside the houses of parliament for the latest in a series of very major protests in the heart of London,” said Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from London.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organiser of the march, said he expected hundreds of thousands to attend from across the United Kingdom.

“Once again, we are delivering a double message. One is to the Palestinian people, a message of solidarity. We see you, we hear you, we stand with you,” he said.

The second message, Jamal said, is addressed to the British political establishment “to end their complicity with Israel’s genocide against Palestinian people”.

Jamal dismissed critics saying that protests have been anti-Semitic.

“This tactic of conflating anti-Semitism with legitimate criticism of the State of Israel is a very familiar one, and is used globally by Israel to silence those who are advocating for Palestinian rights,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rina Shah, a Washington-based political strategist and former senior congressional aide, said protests in US universities are a display of democracy in action, a welcome sight in an election year marked by concerns of voter apathy chiefly due to Israel’s war on Gaza.

“So when I see a movement like this of students taking peaceful, non-violent action and expressing their concern about the US government backing of Israel, of where our tax money is going, I think that’s extremely healthy,” she told Al Jazeera.

“These students are out there concerned about America’s role in backing [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu. On the one hand, we are supplying weapons and funds to do what he wants to do in Gaza, while on the other we are sending humanitarian aid to Gaza. This is the hypocrisy these students are concerned about.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies