“Order must prevail,” Biden says in the face of student mobilization for Gaza – 05/02/2024 at 11:44 p.m.

“Order must prevail,” Biden says in the face of student mobilization for Gaza – 05/02/2024 at 11:44 p.m.
“Order must prevail,” Biden says in the face of student mobilization for Gaza – 05/02/2024 at 11:44 p.m.

Police officers dismantle the pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus of the University of California (UCLA), May 2, 2024 in Los Angeles (AFP / ETIENNE LAURENT)

President Joe Biden called Thursday for a return of order in the face of the mobilization against the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip which is shaking American universities, after two long weeks of silence.

This speech 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.

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

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

In the morning, his opponent and Republican predecessor Donald Trump accused him of inaction in the face of the pro-Palestinian movement. “They are radical left-wing weirdos and we must stop them now because it will last and get worse,” he said upon his arrival at the New York court where he is being tried in an unprecedented trial for a former American president.

Map of American universities where people were arrested after pro-Palestinian demonstrations between May 17 and 2 (AFP / Corin FAIFE)

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

– Nearly 2,000 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 the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on October 7 on its soil.

Police arrest two demonstrators during the dismantling of the pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus of the University of California (UCLA), May 2, 2024 in Los Angeles (AFP / ETIENNE LAURENT)

At UCLA, the protesters were arrested 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.

Clashes between police officers and pro-Palestinian students on the campus of the University of California (UCLA), May 2, 2024 in Los Angeles (AFP / Etienne LAURENT)

“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 the counter-protesters, editor’s note) and now they are attacking the 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.

At the University of Texas in Dallas (south), police evacuated a protester camp.

Clashes between police officers and pro-Palestinian students on the campus of the University of California (UCLA), May 2, 2024 in Los Angeles (AFP / Etienne LAURENT)

Unlike other institutions, Brown University (Rhode Island, east) agreed with the demonstrators on the dismantling of their encampment in exchange for a vote on a possible “divestment” from “+companies that make it possible 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).

Images of riot police intervening on campuses went around 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”.

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