Pro-Palestinian Encampments Spread to Campuses in Other Countries

Pro-Palestinian students at one of France’s most elite universities, Sciences Po, occupied a campus building overnight. Like-minded demonstrators at University College London set up an encampment. And tents with Palestinian flags stretched out this week across university campuses in Australia.

The tensions gripping universities in the United States appear to be spreading to other countries, where student activists have challenged their own schools’ stances on the war in Gaza and ties to Israel.

Demonstrators at several universities in France have put pressure on administrators to more forcefully condemn Israel’s military offense in Gaza and review partnerships with Israeli universities and private donors.

Police officers went into Sciences Po on Friday morning to clear out a group of pro-Palestinian protesters who had occupied a campus building overnight and refused to leave until their demands were met, according to a statement from the university. The intervention came after a town hall debate about the Gaza war on Thursday at the university — which counts top politicians, civil servants and business leaders among its alumni — failed to defuse tensions.

The university said that students had breached an agreement not to disrupt classes and exams, and that it had made the “difficult decision” to involve the police after multiple attempts at dialogue failed. Several buildings were closed on Friday as a “security measure,” and a few dozen students were removed without violence, the statement said.

According to live video shared on Instagram, students sitting in a hall chanted, “We ask for justice! We get the police!” as officers pulled them out.

“For us, this is a movement of international scope,” Jack Espinose, 22, a student at Sciences Po who had occupied the building overnight, said in an interview. Later, he joined a protest of hundreds of students from other universities in front of the Panthéon in Paris. “We’re looking very closely at what’s happening in the United States, and we’d like to do the same thing in France,” he said.

In Britain, small encampments have begun to spring up at universities in the cities of Bristol, Newcastle and Warwick. And a coalition of students and staff members at University College London put up tents on the campus grounds on Thursday to pressure the school to divest from companies complicit in what they called “the genocide of Palestinians,” among other demands.

“We won’t move until the university meets our demands,” a spokesman identified only as Anwar said on Thursday in a social media post. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A union representing students at Trinity College Dublin said that the university had fined it more than 214,000 euros, about $230,000, for financial losses incurred because of disruptive protests since last September over the war in Gaza, rising student fees and other issues. The university, which is a nonprofit, in a statement cited the “negative financial impact” of protests blocking visitor access to the Book of Kells, a Medieval religious manuscript held at the university.

Laszlo Molnarfi, president of the students’ union at Trinity College, said in a phone interview that the union could not afford to pay the fine. He called it an attempt at intimidation by the university, adding that the protests would continue.

“We will be escalating,” he said. “The students in Columbia and in the U.S. are an absolute inspiration to all of us here.”

In Australia, encampments have been set up at major universities in the cities of Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney. Those protests have grown more tense as pro-Israel demonstrators have gathered nearby.

Referring to the encampments, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students said in a social media post on Thursday, “We are deeply concerned that there will be further escalation in the vilification of Jewish students.”

University administrators in Australia have said that they support the students’ right to protest, while warning them to abide by school policies.

“It is naïve to think that students won’t be exercised by the same issues that are challenging broader society,” Vicki Thomson, chief executive for the Group of Eight, an organization representing Australia’s leading universities, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting.

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