University of Chicago authorizes pro-Palestinian demonstration as MIT faces new encampment

University of Chicago authorizes pro-Palestinian demonstration as MIT faces new encampment

CHICAGO (AP) — Police cleared a pro-Palestinian tent camp at the University of Chicago on Tuesday as tensions rose during standoffs with protesters on other college campuses in the U.S. — and increasingly in Europe.

Nearly three weeks after the start of a movement launched by a protest at Columbia University, the Rhode Island School of Design held talks with protesters occupying a building, and MIT handled a new encampment on a site that was cleared but immediately recaptured by demonstrators.

The confrontations come as campuses try a range of strategies, from reconciliation to threats of disciplinary action, to resolve protests against the war between Israel and Hamas and clear the way for it to begin.

At the University of Chicago, hundreds of protesters had gathered in an area known as the Quad for at least eight days. Campus administrators warned them Friday to leave the area or face removal. Riot police blocked access to the Quad on Tuesday as law enforcement officers dismantled the camp.

At MIT, demonstrators were given a deadline Monday afternoon to leave voluntarily or face suspension. Many left, according to an MIT spokesperson, who said demonstrators had breached the fencing following the arrival of demonstrators from outside the university. On Monday evening, dozens of protesters remained at the encampment in a calmer atmosphere, listening to speakers and chanting before taking a pizza break.

Sam Ihns, an MIT graduate student studying mechanical engineering and a member of MIT Jews for a Ceasefire, said the group has been in the camp for two weeks and is calling for an end to the killings in Gaza.

“Specifically, our encampment protests MIT’s direct research ties to the Israeli Ministry of Defense,” he said.

No arrests had been made as of Monday evening, according to the MIT spokesperson.

At the Rhode Island School of Design, where students began occupying a building Monday, a spokesperson said the school affirms students’ rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and that it supports all members of the community. The RISD president and provost met with the protesters at the scene, the spokesperson said.

The student protests have spread to Europe, where they are gaining strength. Police arrested around 125 activists early Tuesday as they broke up a pro-Palestinian camp at the University of Amsterdam. Students have also held protests or set up camps in Finland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Britain.

Many protesters want their schools divested from companies that do business with Israel or otherwise contribute to the war effort. Others simply want to draw attention to the deaths in Gaza and the end of the war.

Demonstrations at Columbia University in New York City, where the protest movement began about three weeks ago, have roiled the campus. Officials canceled the big main ceremony on Monday, but said students will be able to celebrate a series of smaller school ceremonies this week and next.

Columbia had already canceled in-person classes. More than 200 pro-Palestinian protesters who had camped on Columbia’s green or occupied an academic building have been arrested in recent weeks.

Similar camps emerged elsewhere, leaving universities grappling with where to draw the line between allowing free speech and maintaining safe and inclusive campuses.

The University of Southern California previously canceled its main graduation ceremony. Students left their camp at USC on Sunday after being surrounded by police and threatened with arrest. Other universities have held graduation ceremonies with increased security. The University of Michigan ceremony was interrupted by a few chants on Saturday.

A group of faculty and staff at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have asked the government for amnesty for student protesters who were recently arrested and suspended.

Harvard University’s interim president Alan Garber warned students that those staying in an encampment in Harvard Yard could face “involuntary furloughs,” meaning they would not be allowed on campus, could lose their student housing losses and might not be able to take exams.

At the University of California, San Diego, police cleared an encampment and arrested more than 64 people, including 40 students. The University of California, Los Angeles, has moved classes online for a week due to disruptions following the dismantling of an encampment last week, which resulted in 44 reported arrests.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched an offensive in Gaza that has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled area, about two-thirds of whom were women and children, according to the Health Ministry. Israeli attacks have destroyed the enclave and displaced most of its residents.

Hamas announced Monday that it accepted a proposal for an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire, but Israel said the deal did not meet its “core demands” and that it pressed ahead with an attack on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza.

“A ceasefire is temporary,” said Selina Al-Shihabi, a sophomore at Georgetown University who participated in a protest in George Washington. “There may be a ceasefire, but the US government will continue to arm the Israeli army. We plan to stay here until the university backs out or they drag us out of here.”


LeBlanc reported from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Associated Press writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.