Not Just Columbia: Pro-Palestine Protests Roil Campuses Nationwide

Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

At universities across the United States, students launched protest encampments on Wednesday, as part of a wave of demonstrations meant to urge schools to divest from military contractors supplying Israel with weapons.

The surge in activity comes the wake of a controversial ongoing “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Columbia University, where House Speaker Mike Johnson made a lackluster appearance on Wednesday afternoon. Students at other high profile schools like Yale and NYU have held their own protests, but the elite East Coast schools are only the tip of the dissent iceberg.

As these protests took shape, many institutions called for law enforcement to break up the protests and, in many cases, arrest the students.

Here’s a look at what happened at protests across the country on Wednesday:

University of Texas at Austin

Students rally together during a pro-Palestine protest at the The University of Texas at Austin.

Students rally together during a pro-Palestine protest at the The University of Texas at Austin.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Two dozen pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested by law enforcement on Wednesday at the University of Texas at Austin, as they gathered to oppose Israel’s brutal military campaign in Gaza.

At least 26 protesters were arrested by police after they were told to disperse, according to the Texas Tribune. A photographer with Fox7 Austin was also reportedly arrested.

On X, Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for the expulsion of students at what he called a “hate-filled, antisemitic protests.”

Local police, alongside state troopers in riot gear, were dispatched to the South Lawn at UT Austin, where hundreds of students gathered to call on the school to cut ties with weapons manufacturers that have continued to arm Israel.

Troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety threatened to arrest any protesters who remained on the South Lawn for trespassing, according to KXAN’s Ryan Chandler. The arrests quickly turned violent, with one video of the protest showing police pushing into the crowd of protesters, shoving them to the ground, and handcuffing them.

Troopers continued the tense encounter by circling protesters on the lawn and pushing them back with riot gear. As this confrontation was taking place, protesters continued to chant, “Free, free, free Palestine!”

The demonstration began when hundreds of students left class at 11:40 a.m. on Wednesday as part of a protest organized by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee of Austin. In an Instagram post, the group said it was following in “the footsteps of our comrades at Columbia SJP, Rutgers-New Brunswick, Yale, and countless others across the nation.”

On Tuesday, the Dean of Students office had sent a letter to the protest organizers telling them to pull the plug on the protest.

“Simply put, the University of Texas at Austin will not allow this campus to be ‘taken’ and protesters to derail our mission in ways that groups affiliated with your national organizations have accomplished elsewhere.”

University of Southern California

Student protesters found themselves in violent confrontations with police, after an encampment made by pro-Palestinian protesters sprung up in Alumni Park on Wednesday morning, according to KTLA.

On Wednesday afternoon, police officers and state troopers swarmed the encampment, taking down tents. USC Public Safety Assistant Chief David Carlisle told KTLA that while students were free to protest, they were not permitted to set up camp on university property.

One video shared to X, shows a police officer whipping out his baton as police wrestled a protester in a neon vest to the ground.

In another video shared to X, students swarmed a DPS car which held a detained student in an apparent effort to prevent law enforcement from taking them away.

Campus was closed to non-students on Wednesday afternoon , and students were urged to avoid the center of campus, according to the Daily Trojan.

Tensions on campus have skyrocketed since the university decided to not allow its outspoken pro-Palestinian valedictorian to speak at graduation—an event which has since been cancelled altogether.

Harvard University

Protesters gather at the Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Protesters gather at the Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Nell Scovell / The Daily Beast

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Across the country, things were far calmer in Cambridge Massachusetts, as protesters gathered in the Harvard Yard to create their own encampment, largely free of police interference.

Hundreds of protesters gathered for a rally on Wednesday afternoon, while others pitched a cluster of about thirteen tents. A video posted to X shows Harvard students racing to the grass to quickly set up their encampment.

The Daily Beast spotted several signs reading “From the river to the sea” among the crowd—despite a previous plea from now-former Harvard President Claudine Gay to avoid using the phrase for fear that it could “engender both pain and existential fears within our Jewish community.”

One campus organizer named Elizabeth Ross said she viewed the slogan as a “call for peace and solidarity” with the people of Gaza.

On Monday, the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee was suspended after the group helped stage a solidarity rally for Columbia students last week. In an email obtained by The Harvard Crimson, students were warned to “cease all organizational activities,” or risk permanent expulsion.

In an interview that day, interim Harvard President Alan Garber said he would not rule out using police force to deter protests, but said the university has a “very, very high bar” for involving authorities.

Just the beginning...

These protests are just the newest additions to a nationwide movement. On Monday, encampments also sprung up on the campuses of Swarthmore College, the University of Michigan, and USC Berkeley.

At Cal Poly Humboldt, students took over an administrative building Tuesday, causing the school to close campus through the weekend.

On Tuesday, nine people were reportedly arrested at an encampment on the University of Minnesota campus, prompting a massive gathering of an estimated 1,000 protesters.

As of Wednesday, that encampment has resumed.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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