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US: Over 100 detained at pro-Palestinian campus protest

April 27, 2024

Boston's Northeastern University said that protesters had called for violence against Jewish people. Meanwhile, Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr voiced support for pro-Palestinan rallies held at US campuses.

Pro-Palestinian protesters wearing facemasks and Palestinian scarfs at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, US
Police have arrested scores of pro-Palestinian protesters at an event at Northeastern University in Boston, MassachusettsImage: Joseph Przioso/AFP/Getty Images

US police have detained over 100 people at a pro-Palestinian protest, Northeastern University said on Saturday.

The event in Boston, in the northeastern US state of Massachusetts, is the latest in a series of rallies at campuses across the US. Several of those protests have been interrupted by police. 

Arrests at Arizona State University and Indiana University

There were also arrests at Arizona State University (ASU) and Indiana University as US universities struggle to deal with growing pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments on campuses. 

At ASU university police arrested 69 people early Saturday after they set up an unauthorized encampment in violation of university rules that state that demonstrations cannot take place at night. 

School officials said the group that had created the encampment were given "numerous warnings" to disperse by 11 p.m. Friday. "Individuals who did not comply with this and refused to leave were taken into custody,"officials wrote in a statement.

"While the university will continue to be an environment that embraces freedom of speech, ASU’s first priority is to create a safe and secure environment that supports teaching and learning," said a spokesperson for ASU in the statement.

At Indiana University Bloomington, in Indiana state in the Midwestern region of the country, state and campus police arrested 23 people on Saturday, according to the school newspaper. Several others were arrested at the university earlier this week.

In a different protest on Thursday, 93 people were arrested for trespassing at the University of Southern California (USC). On Friday, the interim president of the University of Pennsylvania, J. Larry Jameson, called for an encampment of protesters on his campus to be dismantled.

What did Northeastern say about the police action?

In Boston officers took action after protesters had "crossed the line" in using "anti-Semitic slurs" including calls to kill Jewish people, the university said in a social media post.

"What began as a student demonstration two days ago was infiltrated by professional organizers with no affiliation to Northeastern," the statement said.

"As part of clearing of the site, approximately 100 individuals were detained by police," it said, adding that an "unauthorized encampment" had been cleared by authorities.

The university said that those who had identified themselves as students at the institution were not detained by police.

"Those who produced a valid Northeastern ID were released. They will face disciplinary proceedings within the university, not legal action."

"Those who refused to disclose their affiliation were arrested," it stressed.

What was the response from protest organizers?

A leading student group behind the protests, the Huskies for a Free Palestine, disputed the university's account and said "Zionist" counterprotesters actually shouted the antisemitic slogan which was then used to justify police deployment.

In a statement, the organization claimed that no student protesters "repeated the disgusting hate speech."

Protesters are demanding a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, where at least 34,388 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas began when the militant Hamas group launched an attack on southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of around 1,170 people. 

Hamas is designated as a terror organization by Germany, the US and others.

Iraq's al-Sadr voices support for US student protesters

Shiite political and religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who is a vocal critic of US and Iranian involvement in Iraqi politics, expressed support for pro-Palestinian demonstrations at US campuses in a statement posted to X, formerly Twitter.

"We call for a halt to the crackdown on voices advocating for peace and freedom," al-Sadr said, referring to police action against pro-Palestinian demonstrations at US campuses.

His Sadrist movement has considerable influence in Iraqi politics, though the cleric himself is currently keeping out of Iraq's political scene. Baghdad has not recognized the state of Israel.

rm,sdi/dj (AFP, AP)