Pro-Hamas Campus Protests Spill into Summer, Arrests Pass 3,000 (2024)

College semesters may be winding down, but the anti-Israel, pro-Hamas demonstrations that have dominated the past month are not. Last week saw more encampments, more illegal break-ins, and more arrests. Since April 18, police have made at least 3,011 arrests during pro-Hamas direct actions on 68 college campuses in 29 states.

That pro-Hamas activism is not yet over was the message sent Sunday, when graduating seniors at George Washington University (GWU) repeatedly disrupted the school’s commencement ceremony on the National Mall, in the shadow of the Washington Monument. They displayed a banner charging Israel (and, by some unapparent connection, their own tuition payments) with genocide, then walked out. They declared their desire to “globalize the intifada,” raised anti-Semitic chants, and shouted “shame” at their own university president.

Not only did these troublemakers try to ruin the ceremony for everyone else, they also exposed how little four years of higher education prepared them for normal life, not to mention how little they learned. Israel has achieved a remarkably low civilian death toll while fighting back against a global terrorist group that seeks their extermination. Apparently, it’s possible to graduate from one of America’s top universities for international relations and misinterpret this as a “genocide” for which one’s university is directly responsible.

Yet the GWU commencement protest, though embarrassing for all involved, was tame compared to other recent activism.

After weeks of inaction against an illegal tent encampment at the University of California at Berkeley, police finally made 12 arrests and cleared the encampment Thursday night after pro-Hamas activists broke into a campus building. The spring semester for UC Berkeley ended on Friday, May 10. Of the 12 protestors, four have refused to reveal their identities to police; one is from Colorado, and only one has been identified as a student.

The break-in “was, from the very beginning, a criminal act. They broke into a building. They vandalized the building. They trespassed on university property,” a UC Berkeley spokesman complained. Of course, those participating in the encampment had been trespassing on university property the whole time.

A similar story occurred Friday at the University of Pennsylvania, where police arrested 19 activists for breaking into a university building. Only six were students. Police said they recovered “lock-picking tools and homemade metal shields fashioned from oil drums.” The protestors also barricaded exit doors with zip ties, barbed wire, and classroom furniture, and they covered windows with newspaper and cardboard. The University of Pennsylvania’s semester ended last Tuesday, with commencement scheduled for today.

It’s one thing for university students to camp overnight on the lawn to make hapless demands of their university. It’s something entirely different for bands of activists — led by and primarily composed of non-student outsiders — to break into university buildings and hold them hostage to the same ridiculous demands. Such an escalation can no longer be dismissed as harmless exuberance or foolish play-acting. It indicates a level of organization and criminality that far surpasses the mystique of the student protest.

Those are just the most recent incidents. When The Washington Stand last reported on campus arrests on May 4, there had been more than 2,200. Now, the number is 3,011.

Police at the University of Pennsylvania already arrested 33 activists on May 10, of whom nine were students, and 24 were not affiliated with the school. Police at George Washington University arrested 33 activists on May 8.

Last Wednesday, police arrested 47 activists at UC Irvine, including 19 students, two staff, and 19 people unaffiliated with the university. On May 7, police arrested 132 activists in an encampment at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, including 70 students, six staff, and 56 people unaffiliated with the school. The same day, New York City police arrested 46 activists who had illegally occupied a building of the Fashion Institute of Technology. On May 6, 64 people were arrested at UC San Diego, including 40 students and 24 unaffiliated people, 43 were arrested at UCLA, and 27 were arrested at Hunter College, while attempting to disrupt the Met gala. On May 4, Chicago police arrested 68 activists at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Charlottesville police arrested 25 protestors at the University of Virginia.

Those are just the highlights — or perhaps the lowlights — from the past two weeks.

Just because students’ semesters are ending doesn’t mean the protests will. In fact, a new encampment popped up over the weekend at Drexel University in Philadelphia — only two blocks distant from the UPenn encampment — sending university buildings into lockdown. Drexel’s summer term began Monday. Beyond summer students, the increasing prominence of non-student arrestees indicate at least some campus occupations could continue without any student involvement at all.

Some commentators predicted back in April that campus protests would carry on into another election-year summer of disruption and rioting. The most recent developments suggest that activists might even continue their campus protests through the summer months.

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

Pro-Hamas Campus Protests Spill into Summer, Arrests Pass 3,000 (2024)


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