NYU Gaza protests continue as students demand Israel divestment

More than 130 people were arrested when police cleared university plaza filled with tents on Monday

New York University students and faculty protest against Israel's war in Gaza, at Washington Square Park. AFP
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About 200 New York University students gathered in Washington Square Park on Tuesday, a day after a pro-Palestine protest camp on the school's grounds was cleared by police.

Demonstrators gave speeches and led “free, free Palestine” chants, while others held signs that read “Zionist donors and trustees, hands off our universities” and “Divest”.

More than 130 students and faculty were arrested when police cleared a university plaza filled with tents on Monday.

The same plaza was barricaded with a wall of wooden plywood the next day, with campus officers not allowing anyone on to the grounds.

“I watched as the NYPD [New York Police Department] arrested my thesis adviser and two of my other professors among 20 other faculty, along with nearly 100 of my classmates and colleagues,” NYU graduate student Alana told The National.

“It was really shocking to see my campus being militarised when I was in the middle of writing my thesis.”

NYU's administration said it had warned students that no more participants could join the protest, but barricades were breached.

Public safety officials “witnessed disorderly, disruptive and antagonising behaviour that has interfered with the safety and security of our community”, the administration said.

Members of faculty surrounded the protest before the arrests in an attempt to protect students.

NYU's protest camp was influenced by one set up on Columbia University's Upper West Side campus, which also saw arrests but still holds a presence at the school.

Protests continue at Columbia University after pro-Palestine encampment arrests – video

Protests continue at Columbia University after pro-Palestine encampment arrests

Protests continue at Columbia University after pro-Palestine encampment arrests

Yale University in the nearby state of Connecticut also had 60 arrests over another pro-Palestine tent camp.

At Columbia and other protests, students are calling for schools to disclose their investments in Israel and elsewhere, and divest from any financial connections to Israel's actions in Gaza and the West Bank.

“They are only interested in protecting their investments and their trustees, and many of them are deeply either invested in organisations [or] companies that fund the genocide in Gaza,” NYU student Mya told The National during a demonstration.

NYU has had a presence in Tel Aviv as part of its global study programme since 2013, and students say the campus of a few dozen students is against their “anti-discrimination policy”.

“We have been asking that NYU shut down its Tel Aviv campus because it is inherently discriminatory,” Mya said.

NYU has a history of divesting over political issues. In 1985, it eliminated financial ties to South Africa's apartheid system.

“The movement will continue, the student movement will live on, and we will not stop and we will not let up until NYU discloses and divests,” Mya said.

Student Gaza protests at US universities – in pictures

American universities have had a rise in pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protests and speech in the months since Israel launched military operations in Gaza after a deadly Hamas-led attack.

Israeli officials say about 1,200 people were killed on October 7, while Gaza's Health Ministry says about 34,200 people have been killed in the enclave.

Students expressed their hope for ceasefire in Gaza and a “free Palestine”.

“My primary objective is, of course, initially the end of the genocide in Gaza, ceasefire immediately, and an end to the occupation and to apartheid in Palestine,” Alana said.

“I also am Jewish, coming from Jewish background, and much of my family does live in Israel so, you know, I'm witnessing my family participate in a genocide.

“I'm deeply, deeply embedded, deeply, deeply invested in seeing a free Palestine in my lifetime.”

Updated: April 24, 2024, 12:18 AM