‘Pro-Hamas’ Protests at Ivy League Campuses Lead to Arrests

Protest at Columbia University | Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Student-led anti-Israel protests and counter-protests roiled several university campuses in the northeastern United States over the past week, with tensions escalating and leading to arrests.

On Friday night, demonstrators, who called themselves Occupy Beinecke, encamped at Beinecke Plaza at Yale University, demanding transparency regarding the university’s investments in military weapons manufacturers. Despite requests from university officials to leave the area voluntarily, protesters remained over the weekend until Yale police moved in and arrested some 60 individuals, The New York Times reported.

According to Yale’s president, Peter Salvey, 47 of the arrested protesters were students at the university.

The Occupy Beinecke movement wrote on social media, “Yale, you have intimidated us, criminalized us, militarized our campus and failed to accept our demands… We will not stop, we will not rest until we have disclosure and divestment.”

Similar protests have broken out at various other universities, including the University of Michigan, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Emerson College, Tufts University, and Columbia University.

Last week at Columbia University in New York City, student protesters set up a tent encampment with a red spray-painted sign that read “Gaza Solidarity Encampment,” NYT reported.

“The current encampment violates all of the new policies, severely disrupts campus life, and creates a harassing and intimidating environment for many of our students,” Columbia University President Nemat Shafik wrote in a letter to the community.

When the protesters refused to break up the encampment voluntarily, Shafik sent in the campus police, who moved in and dismantled the camps, arresting some 100 students on Thursday. However, the protests continued, and within hours, more tents appeared on the campus.

Jewish students trying to leave the campus for the weekend were met with antisemitic chants calling for them to “return to Poland,” according to a social media post from X user David Lederer.

The protests, which have predominantly been in support of Palestine, have included instances of demonstrators directing an array of antisemitic remarks toward Jewish students and faculty members. Such actions have prompted widespread concern among local and national officials and within the Columbia community.

“For 4 days the pro-Hamas mob [at] Columbia has taken over our campus. No one bothered them. Saturday night, we went out with Israeli flags for one hour. They stole our flag and tried to burn it, my brother was assaulted, and Jewish students were splashed with water. Public safety was nowhere to be found. Columbia has lost its campus,” Lederer posted early Sunday morning.

Shafik expressed sorrow over the events unfolding at the campus in a statement released early Monday. She urged non-resident students to refrain from visiting the campus amid the ongoing tensions.

“Our bonds as a community have been severely tested in ways that will take a great deal of time and effort to reaffirm,” Shafik said. “To deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps, I am announcing that all classes will be held virtually on Monday.”

The decision to resort to remote learning reflects the increasing pressure on the university’s leadership to address growing antisemitism and ensure the safety of its students.

“Over the past days, there have been too many examples of intimidating and harassing behavior on our campus. Antisemitic language, like any other language that is used to hurt and frighten people, is unacceptable, and appropriate action will be taken. We urge those affected to report these incidents through university channels,” said Shafik.

The incidents of harassment against Jewish students drew further condemnation from various quarters, including the White House and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable and dangerous,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the White House, per NYT.

“I am horrified and disgusted with the antisemitism being spewed at and around the Columbia University campus,” Adams said in a statement on Sunday, per ABC News. “I have instructed the NYPD to investigate any violation of law that is reported. Rest assured, the NYPD will not hesitate to arrest anyone who is found to be breaking the law.”

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