Joe Biden calls for a return to order in the face of student mobilization for Gaza

Joe Biden calls for a return to order in the face of student mobilization for Gaza
Joe Biden calls for a return to order in the face of student mobilization for Gaza

Pro-Palestinian students and activists on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, April 25, 2024.

AFP

After two weeks of silence, President Joe Biden engaged in the issue of the movement which agitates American universities against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, calling for a return to order.

Six months before the elections, in a polarized United States, the Democratic president spoke on this theme likely to undermine his campaign to affirm Thursday that “order must prevail”.

This statement comes after a series of manu militari dismantlings by the police of pro-Palestinian encampments, the latest at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where they arrested dozens of students.

“We are not an authoritarian country that silences people,” Joe Biden nevertheless assured during a short speech.

Previously, his Republican opponent Donald Trump had accused him of inaction in the face of the pro-Palestinian movement. “They are radical left-wing weirdos and we must stop them now,” he said upon his arrival at his trial in New York.

Since April 17, a wave of mobilization for Gaza has swept across American campuses, in around forty universities, from the Atlantic coast to California, evoking demonstrations against the Vietnam War.

Nearly 2000 arrests

The police have intervened several times in recent days to dislodge the protesters. Nearly 2,000 people were arrested, according to a report established by several American media.

The students particularly call on universities to cut ties with patrons or companies linked to Israel and denounce the almost unconditional support of the United States for its ally engaged in a massive campaign in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for the attack of Hamas on October 7 on its soil.

At UCLA, the protesters were arrested on Thursday one by one, handcuffed then taken outside after a tense face-to-face with the police, according to an AFP journalist.

Police methodically dismantled wooden pallets and plywood panels from a barricade surrounding the camp and took down the tents of demonstrators, many of whom were wearing kaffiyehs.

After several warnings, “approximately 300 demonstrators left voluntarily while more than 200 resisted the order to disperse and were arrested,” UCLA President Gene Block said in a statement.

The previous night, clashes had broken out on this campus when counter-protesters, many of them masked, attacked the pro-Palestinian encampment and tried to break down a barricade. Demonstrators and counter-protesters then clashed with sticks and projectiles.

Graeme Blair, professor of political science at UCLA, regrets a “so unnecessary” crisis.

“The university and the authorities had the opportunity to de-escalate. They sent the police very late against the extremists last night (during the attack on counter-protesters, Editor’s note) and now they are attacking students participating in a peaceful demonstration,” he told AFP.

The president of UCLA had warned before this violence against the presence of people from outside the campus.

Divestment

Some 300 people were arrested on Wednesday in New York on university sites, according to authorities. During the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, the police had already chased away pro-Palestinian demonstrators barricaded in the prestigious Columbia University, the epicenter of the student mobilization.

New York police said Thursday that of the 282 individuals arrested on the Columbia and CCNY campuses Tuesday evening, 48% were protesters from outside the universities.

Unlike other institutions, Brown University agreed with the demonstrators on the dismantling of their encampment in exchange for a vote on a possible “divestment” from “companies that enable and profit from the genocide in Gaza.”

A mobilization which inspires pro-Palestinian activists around the world, in France, in particular on sites of the prestigious Sciences Po school, whose main premises will be closed on Friday, at McGill University in Canada, and Thursday in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne (UNIL).

In Mexico City, dozens of pro-Palestinian students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the largest in the country, set up camp in the capital on Thursday, chanting “Long live free Palestine!” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will win!”

Images of riot police intervening on American campuses have toured the world and sparked a strong reaction in Israel.

Its president Isaac Herzog denounced a “terrifying resurgence of anti-Semitism” in the world, and particularly in the United States, where “renowned universities” are “contaminated by hatred”.

(afp)

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