Pro-Palestinian mobilization | Columbia University cancels its major graduation ceremony

Pro-Palestinian mobilization | Columbia University cancels its major graduation ceremony
Pro-Palestinian mobilization | Columbia University cancels its major graduation ceremony

(New York) Columbia University, the epicenter of the pro-Palestinian protest on American campuses, announced on Monday “to give up” its graduation ceremony with great fanfare, after three weeks of student anger condemned by Joe Biden and repressed by the police.



Updated yesterday at 8:19 p.m.

Nicolas REVISE

France Media Agency

These ceremonies constitute the great institutional meeting of university and school life in the United States, where, at the end of spring, students in robes are honored in front of their families.

The private and posh New York establishment in northern Manhattan, from where activists and students were dislodged manu militari on the evening of April 30 by hundreds of riot police, canceled “the grand ceremony of university scheduled for May 15.”

“All scheduled ceremonies” on campus – now under police guard – will be “moved” to a closed athletic complex, said Columbia, which has 37,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff.

More informal and “festive” graduations will be held from May 10 to 16, because for “our students […] these smaller-scale ceremonies are the most important for them and their families,” the university said, recalling that “these last few weeks have been incredibly difficult.”

About a hundred furious people protested outside campus and a petition collected 1,400 signatures. Ally Woodward, who studies political science, said she was “angry” at Columbia for “having loads of money and choosing the worst solution.”

“Torment”

This prestigious university, financed by rich donors and investments, was shaken for days by demonstrations and the occupation of a lawn and then a building.

Before the police dislodged these non-violent activists and students, at the written request of the president of Columbia, Minouche Shafik.

Their “village”, a tent encampment, was dismantled, like in many universities across the United States.

These images of muscular police interventions have gone around the world.

Columbia has been a historic center of student protest since the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. It was one of the first universities to rumble at the start of Israel’s war against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Highly criticized for having called the police, President Minouche Shafik, an American economist of Egyptian origin, cited the “turmoil” and the “violent act” of protesters which, according to her, destabilized Columbia.

This movement for the Palestinian cause – which includes young Arab-Muslims but also anti-Zionist left-wing Jews – is now seeking new life, after 2,000 people were arrested and some prosecuted for “trespassing”.

“Biden’s Vietnam”

Elsewhere in the United States, graduation ceremonies were disrupted, such as on Saturday at the University of Michigan, where around ten demonstrators wearing keffiyehs and Palestinian flags chanted “you are financing a genocide”.

Others held up a “Jewish lives matter” banner in response.

Monday evening, a few hundred people who left a public university in Manhattan were kept away from the extravagant Met Gala, a global meeting of stars and fashion.

In addition to ending the war in Gaza, young Americans are demanding that universities sever educational partnerships with Israel and divest from economic investments.

They denounce the almost unconditional support of the United States for their Israeli ally, engaged in a devastating offensive in the Gaza Strip in retaliation for the Hamas attack on October 7 on its soil.

President Biden, long silent, insisted on Thursday that “order must prevail” in the face of the risk of “chaos”.

In a polarized country, six months before the presidential election between the Democrat and the Republican Donald Trump, the anger of part of the youth against the war in Gaza has revived a tense debate on freedom of expression, anti-Zionism and which constitutes anti-Semitism.

For Donald Trump, the demonstrators are “radical left weirdos” and the Republican President of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson denounced on Monday “students sympathizing with terrorism”.

For left-wing senator Bernie Sanders, the movement “could be Biden’s Vietnam” which risks losing “not only young people, but also a large part of the Democratic base”.

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