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Berlin police clear pro-Palestinian demo, open probes

May 24, 2024

Police cleared the premises after pro-Palestinian demonstrators occupied a building at Berlin's Humboldt University for over 24 hours. Student organizers condemned the police actions.

Police push people out of Humboldt University's Social Science Institute on Thursday
More than 100 people had exited the premises of Humboldt University's Department of Social Sciences, some voluntarily and others under police compulsionImage: PRESSCOV/Sipa USA/picture alliance

Police have launched 25 criminal investigations following the eviction of pro-Palestinian demonstrators from Humboldt University in Germany's capital, Berlin.

A police spokeswoman said Friday that officers briefly detained 169 people Thursday night and wrote down their identities.

She added that police also took further "measures restricting freedom" at a subsequent protest rally, and issued criminal summons to six more people.

Berlin police said they would provide additional information about the operation to remove the demonstrators later on Friday.

When did the protest begin?

Activists had occupied rooms of Humboldt University's Department of Socials on Wednesday to protest Israel's ongoing war in Gaza and Germany's arms exports to Israel, and to support the Palestinians.

The university administration initially tolerated the protest, opting to talk with the occupiers. It gave the activists a deadline of 6 p.m. on Thursday to leave the building. This deadline was not met.

"We were in a dialogue there, and, from our point of view, we would have needed some more time to see whether we could lead this dialogue to a result ourselves or not," university president Julia von Blumenthal said. "So we had to break off the attempt at dialogue."

Pro-Palestinian protesters sit in front of Humboldt University's Department of Social Sciences
Activists started the protest at Humboldt University on WednesdayImage: Soeren Stache/dpa/picture alliance

Who ordered the eviction?

The police began the eviction process on Thursday evening. Earlier, a group of activists had left the premises on their own. 

According to von Blumenthal, the police operation was carried out on the orders of Berlin Science and Health Senator Ina Czyborra, in agreement with Berlin Mayor Kai Wegner.

Czyborra said the occupation had been the subject of a meeting on Thursday with Wegner, Interior Senator Iris Spranger and von Blumenthal. "We jointly agreed that the university management would end the occupation and that the demonstrators would be asked to leave the occupied institute," she said.

Ending the occupation after the deadline had expired was the right thing to do, Czyborra said. 

How did activists react?

Student organizers condemned the police action, accusing officers of using unnecessary force against students.

"The violent eviction" of the student protesters, "marked by police brutality," as well as "the failure of the university authorities to protect their students," is a "grave injustice," the group Student Coalition Berlin wrote in a post on Instagram.

The group called for continued protests in solidarity with Palestinians.

In April, Berlin police cleared a pro-Palestinian protest camp outside Germany's Chancellery building.

dh/wd (AFP, dpa, epd)