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The protest at US universities continues. (Photo: @ColumbiaSJP Tw page)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

American police detained approximately 140 students from two universities on Wednesday, amidst protests in solidarity with Gaza and calls to end the Israeli genocidal war. 

The clashes between law enforcement and student demonstrators escalated following the expansion of the pro-Palestine movement, which originated at Columbia University.

Mike Johnson Booed at Columbia

Columbia University students on Wednesday welcomed US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson and a group of representatives amid shouts of booing and criticism.

Johnson visited the university to address protesters against Israel’s war on Gaza. As Johnson approached the podium to deliver his speech, demonstrators chanted slogans against him.

Johnson’s speech, marked by confrontational language toward the student demonstrators and university administration, quickly turned into a heated exchange with the protestors. 

“We cannot hear you,” the crowd chanted, to which Johnson retorted, “Enjoy your freedom of expression.”

Johnson claimed that his visit aimed to support Jewish students facing intimidation from some anti-Israel protesters. 

His visit coincided with the university’s extension of the deadline to dismantle the protest camp from Wednesday morning to Friday morning, turning the Columbia University sit-in into a focal point of nationwide university protests.

The students demand universities to cease collaboration with Israel and urge the US administration to halt Israeli military actions in Gaza. 

Despite facing boos and criticism, Johnson pressed on with his speech, dismissing the demonstrators’ disruptions.

Johnson, a staunch supporter of Israel, accused Columbia University of allowing “lawless extremists and instigators” to exert control, leading to what he termed as the proliferation of antisemitism to other universities. 

The students maintain that their protests are peaceful and attribute any inflammatory confrontations outside the campus to external parties unrelated to their movement. 

Johnson also warned of deploying the National Guard to quell the demonstrations if they are not contained promptly, emphasizing the need to restore order to universities. 

Johnson concluded his speech by pledging to inform US President Joe Biden of the situation and demanding action, while also calling for the resignation of Columbia University President Minouche Shafik if she fails to restore order.

Other Universities

Harvard University students also maintained an open sit-in to denounce American support for Israel in the ongoing conflict. They accused the university of stifling dissent against Israeli actions and set up a protest camp on campus.

Similarly, students at the Massachusets Institute of Technology (MIT) staged a sit-in to condemn what they viewed as the genocide of Palestinians. 

They petitioned to halt university cooperation with the Israeli military, citing a referendum where 70% of students supported this demand.

The Los Angeles Police Department reported the arrest of 93 protesters during a Gaza support rally at the University of Southern California, while approximately 50 students were arrested during a demonstration on the University of Texas campus in Austin.

“Hundreds of local and state police — including some on horseback and holding batons — pushed into protesters, at one point sending some tumbling into the street,” the Associated Press (AP) reported. 

The University of Texas president said that demonstrators who disregarded calls for dispersal would face consequences, asserting that the university enforced regulations while upholding freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, the University of South California said in a statement that its main campus was closed due to ongoing protests, and Los Angeles Police officers were present at the request of the university administration.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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