Police Clear Protest Camps at Several US Colleges

    01 May 2024

    American college officials in New York City and Los Angeles have asked police to remove protesters occupying college buildings and grounds over the past few weeks.

    Overnight, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) officials asked police to step in after several hours of clashes between demonstrators. Pro-Palestinian protesters and those who supported Israel began fighting each other.

    The clashes intensified as supporters of Israel tried to tear down a pro-Palestinian tent encampment.

    Demonstrators clash at a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA early Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)
    Demonstrators clash at a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA early Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ethan Swope)

    The Associated Press (AP) reported that people threw chairs and other objects. Video showed fireworks exploding over and in the encampment. At one point, several people kicked and beat a person on the ground with sticks. Police wearing helmets and face shields formed lines and separated the groups ending the violence.

    The Los Angeles Police Department said on the social media service X that UCLA officials asked for help. The request came after "acts of violence" took place within the large encampment on the campus.

    Hours earlier in New York City, police officers used a ladder to climb through a window to arrest pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University. The group had taken over the building after leaving a tent encampment on Tuesday.

    Columbia University officials said they "were left with no choice" after learning that "Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded." They added that the decision to ask police for help "was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing."

    Protests spread across the U.S.

    The nationwide campus protests spread from Columbia University in New York City. Protesters say they are against Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, which started in late October 2023.

    Israel started the war in reaction to a terrorist attack by Hamas that killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took 250 hostages on October 7. The war has destroyed much of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Gaza's health ministry, which is run by Hamas, says nearly 35,000 Palestinians have been killed.

    Protesters in the U.S. have since called on American universities to stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its military.

    Tensions increased when police first arrested more than 100 demonstrators at Columbia University on April 22. The protests spread to college campuses in many places across the United States.

    New York City Mayor Eric Adams said about 300 protesters were arrested overnight at Columbia and nearby City College of New York.

    Fabien Lugo, a first-year student at Columbia, said he was not involved in the protests. Lugo said he opposed the university's decision to call in the police. "This is too intense," he said. "It feels like more of an escalation than a de-escalation."

    Like Columbia, Brown University in the state of Rhode Island is a member of the Ivy League group of costly, private schools. Brown reached an agreement Tuesday with protesters to close their encampment in exchange for officials taking a vote to consider divestment from Israel in October.

    At Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, riot police closed an encampment late Tuesday and arrested about 20 people. They were charged with trespassing. University officials had warned that students would face criminal charges if they did not leave.

    First-year student Brayden Lang watched the events. "I still know very little about this conflict," he said, "But the deaths of thousands is something I cannot stand for."

    Police also reportedly cleared encampments at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Jake Ofenhartz, Joseph Frederick, Ethan Swope and Stefanie Dazio reported this story for the Associated Press. Hai Do adapted it for VOA Learning English with additional reporting from Reuters.


    Words in This Story

    helmet –n. a hard covering to protect the head

    campus –n. the grounds of a school, college or research institution

    vandalize –v. to ruin the appearance of a place and destroy parts of it on purpose for the sake of being destructive

    champion –v. to vocally and forcefully support a cause

    escalation –n. an increase in the intensity of a dispute or conflict

    divestment –n. the act of selling financial interest in an investment or business

    trespassing –n. the crime of being in a place without the owner's permission