Pro-Palestine protests spread in Europe, several arrested

Published May 8, 2024
Berlin: Police remove a person from a human chain of pro-Palestinian demonstrators as they occupy a courtyard at Freie Universitat.—Reuters
Berlin: Police remove a person from a human chain of pro-Palestinian demonstrators as they occupy a courtyard at Freie Universitat.—Reuters

AMSTERDAM: Student protests demanding that universities sever ties with Israel in view of their assault on Gaza, have slowly yet surely spread across Europe. On Tuesday, police ‘broke up’ demonstrations in the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Students at certain elite European universities felt inspired by the ongoing demonstrations at US campuses’. They have occupied university halls and/or facilities and demanded an end to partnerships with Israeli institutions.

At the University of Amsterdam, images on public broadcaster NOS showed police baton-charging protesters and smashing up tents at around 4am (0200 GMT), after they refused to leave the campus.

“The demonstration took on a violent nature because later in the evening massive stones were removed from the ground” police said in a statement.

At Berlin’s Free University, police ‘cleared’ a demonstration of up to 80 people after they set up a protest camp in a courtyard, within the campus early on Tuesday.

The protesters, included some of whom were wearing the keffiyeh scarf, which has long been a symbol of the Palestinian cause. They sat in front of tents and waved banners. They later attempted to enter rooms and lecture halls to occupy them, according to the university. They said they then called in the police to ‘clear’ the protest.

Videos circulating on social media showed officers carrying away protesters. The university stated property was damaged, while classes in a few buildings remained suspended for the day. Berlin police, too, said that they made ‘some’ arrests for ‘incitement to hatred and trespassing’.

France, Switzerland demos

Police intervened twice on Tuesday at the prestigious Sciences Po University, in Paris. They allege they were ‘forced’ to disperse about 20 students who had barricaded themselves in the university’s main hall. Police moved in to ‘permit’ fellow students to take their examinations and made two arrests, according to prosecutors. The university stated the examinations were able to proceed without any unforeseen incident.

Police have intervened several times over the past week at Sciences Po, where protesters are demanding the university ‘reveal’ its partnerships with Israeli institutions. Some 13 students are on a hunger strike, according to the university.

In Switzerland, protests spread to three universities across the country on Tuesday.

The University of Lausanne (UNIL) was the first to mobilise, with several hundred students’ occupying a hall on Thursday evening. They, too, demanded an end to partnerships with Israeli universities. UNIL responded in a statement that it “considers that there is no reason to cease these relations”.

On Tuesday however, the movement spread to the EPFL university in Lausanne, where a group of students occupied the university’s hall before dispersing in the afternoon. At the University of Geneva, students took over a hall with sofas, chairs and tables around midday.

Tens of students protested in the entrance hall of the ETH Zurich, shortly before midday on Tuesday. They raised the slogan “Free Palestine” and rolled a poster onto the floor that read “no Tech for Genocide” before being ‘removed’ by police, according to news agency ‘Keystone-ATS’.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2024

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