Police dismantle students’ pro-Palestinian tent encampment in Massachusetts

Police dismantled a pro-Palestinian tent encampment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) early on Friday and moved to clear protesters from University of Pennsylvania’s campus in Philadelphia.

It came hours after police tear-gassed protesters and took down an encampment at the University of Arizona.

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, video showed police roaming through the MIT encampment. Police in riot gear arrived around 4am, encircled the camp and gave protesters about 15 minutes to leave.

Ten students who remained were arrested, the university’s president said. A crowd outside the camp began gathering and chanting pro-Palestinian slogans but were dispersed by 6am.

At the University of Arizona in Tucson, campus police in riot gear fired tear gas late on Thursday at protesters before tearing down an encampment that included wood and plastic barriers on campus.

In statement, the University of Arizona said it made the decision because the encampment violated school policy.

“University officials issued warnings to remove the encampment and disperse. The warnings were ignored.”

The university also said police vehicles were attacked, and rocks and water bottles thrown at officers and university staff.

In Philadelphia early on Friday, police detained people who were at an encampment that has been in place at the University of Pennsylvania for more than two weeks.

Officers moved in after giving protesters a warning to leave campus or face possible arrest.

Tensions have ratcheted up in standoffs with protesters on campuses across the United States and in Europe.

Some colleges cracked down immediately, while others have tolerated the demonstrations. Some have begun to lose patience and call in the police over concerns about disruptions to campus life and safety.

Israel Palestinians Campus Protests
Police tour the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the University of Pennsylvania (Alejandro A Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

More than 2,500 people have been arrested.

The move at MIT comes several days after police first attempted to clear the camp only to see protesters storm past barriers and restore the encampment, which includes about a dozen tents in the heart of the campus in Cambridge.

Before removing the encampment, MIT earlier in the week had started suspending dozens of students involved in the encampment, meaning they would not be able to take part in academic activities nor graduation ceremonies.

Protesters insisted the move would not stop them from demanding that MIT end all ties to the Israeli military. They encampment had been up for aweeks and especially angered Jewish students, who have held counterprotests near the camp.

“This is only going to make us stronger. They can’t arrest the movement,” Quinn Perian, an undergraduate student at MIT and organizer for MIT Jews for Ceasefire, said.

“We are going to continue and won’t back down until MIT agrees to cut ties with the Israeli military. MIT would rather arrest and suspend some students than they would end their complicity with the genocide going in Gaza.”

Counterprotesters covered a lawn with small Israeli flags and put up posters of some of the people abducted by the militants in the attack that ignited the war in Gaza.

MIT president Sally Kornbluth, working to strike a balance between recognising the suffering in Gaza and concerns about the “safety of our community”, had warned on Monday the encampment would have be removed.

In a letter, she wrote that her responsibility is “to make sure that the campus is physically safe and functioning for everyone … and that everyone feels free to express their views.”

The encampment, she wrote, “increasingly made it impossible to meet all these obligations”.

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