Columbia begins suspending students at protest camp

NEW YORK (AP) — Clashes broke out between protesters and police on the University of Texas on Monday, resulting in dozens of arrests, and Columbia University began issuing suspensions as colleges across the U.S. implored pro-Palestinian protesters to depart their encampments to vacate before the opening ceremonies approached.

Protesters from coast to coast are arguing over the war between Israel and Hamas and the rising death toll, and the variety of arrests at universities across the country is nearing 1,000 at the tip of the ultimate days of classes. The outcry is forcing colleges to reckon with their financial ties to Israel and their support of free speech.

Protests have even spread to Europe, with French police expelling dozens of scholars from Sorbonne University after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the essential courtyard. In Canada, student protest camps have sprung up on the University of Ottawa, McGill University in Montreal and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, The Canadian Press reported.

At the University of Texas at Austin, a lawyer said not less than 40 protesters were arrested Monday, a few of them by officers in riot gear who surrounded about 100 seated demonstrators and carried them away one after the other, screaming. Another group of protesters trapped police and a van stuffed with detainees between buildings, making a mass of pushing and shoving bodies and prompting officers to make use of pepper spray and flash guns to clear the gang.

The confrontation led to an escalation on the 50,000-student campus within the state capital. On social media, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott reposted a video of the arrival of state troops and said, “No encampments will be allowed.” Just last week, tons of of law enforcement officials descended on demonstrators outside the university and arrested greater than 50 people.

The Texas protest and others grew out of early demonstrations in Colombia that proceed to at the present time. On Monday, Columbia University student activists left a camp of about 120 tents on the college's Manhattan campus despite a 2 p.m. deadline. Instead, tons of of protesters marched across the courtyard, clapping, shouting and weaving around piles of makeshift flooring and green carpet intended for graduation ceremonies set to start next week.

A handful of counter-protesters waved Israeli flags and one held an indication that read, “Where are the anti-Hamas chants?”

The university didn’t call the police to disperse the protesters. But three hours after the deadline, school spokesman Ben Chang said Columbia had begun suspending students. He didn’t say what number of students were involved. He also didn’t say how the suspensions can be carried out or whether suspended students can be expelled from campus.

Chang said that while the university values ​​students' right to freedom of expression, the camp is a “noisy distraction” that interferes with teaching and preparation for final exams. The protests also made some Jewish students very uncomfortable, he said.

Protest organizers said they weren’t aware of any suspensions as of Monday evening.

The notice sent to protesters earlier Monday said they might finish the semester in good standing in the event that they left on time and signed a form agreeing to comply with university policies through June 2025. If not, the letter said, they’d be suspended pending further investigation.

College classes are winding down for the semester and campuses are preparing for graduation ceremonies, giving schools extra incentive to filter out encampments. The University of Southern California has canceled its essential graduation ceremony.

But students lagged behind at other top universities, and stalemate continued at Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Yale and others.

Protesters in Yale arrange a brand new encampment with dozens of tents on Sunday, nearly every week after police arrested nearly 50 and cleared the same one nearby. They were informed by a Yale official that they’d face disciplinary motion, as much as and including suspension and possible arrest, in the event that they continued.

Yale said in an announcement Monday that while it supports peaceful protests and freedom of expression, it doesn’t tolerate policy violations just like the encampment. School officials said the protest is happening near residential colleges where many students are studying for final exams, and that groups have to be granted permission to carry events and construct structures on campus.

In a rare move, Northwestern University said it had reached an agreement with students and school who represent nearly all of protesters on its Chicago-area campus. It allows peaceful demonstrations through the tip of spring classes on June 1, requires the removal of all but one tents to supply assistance, and limits the demonstration area to students, faculty and staff access only unless the university approves otherwise.

At Brown University in Rhode Island, school president Christina H. Paxton offered protest leaders the chance to satisfy with officials to debate their case for divesting from Israel-affiliated businesses in exchange for ending a camp.

In the letter to student protesters in Columbia, school officials noted that exams were starting and graduation was approaching.

“We urge you to disband the camp so that we do not deprive your fellow students, their families and friends of this momentous event,” the letter said.

The demonstrations have prompted Columbia to carry distant classes. In an email to students, the college said bringing police back “at this time” can be counterproductive. The university said it will offer another venue for the protests after exams and graduation.

Colombia's handling of the protests has led to federal complaints.

Meanwhile, a rights group representing pro-Palestinian students is looking on the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to research Columbia's compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 over the way in which they were treated.

A university spokesman declined to comment on the complaints.

The fate of the arrested students has grow to be a central theme of the protests, with students and a growing number of school demanding amnesty for the demonstrators. At issue is whether or not the suspensions and legal records will follow students throughout their adult lives.

Protesters on other campuses, meanwhile, said they’d stand firm. Jacob Ginn, a second-year sociology student on the University of North Carolina, said he protested on the camp for 4 days, including negotiations with administration on Friday.

“We are prepared for anything and will remain here until the university meets our demands, and we will remain steadfast and strong in the face of any brutality and repression they attempt to attack us with,” Ginn said, referring to a possible police raid of the camp.

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