Gaza War Protests Erupt Across College Campuses Nationwide

College campuses across the country have become home to protests and encampments against Israel’s war on Gaza — leading to hundreds of arrests.

The protesters across the numerous universities are calling for a permanent cease-fire and university divestment from companies making money off of the war, according to Reuters. Additionally, they are also demanding that the U.S. stops military assistance for Israel, and that disciplined student or faculty protesters are given amnesty, per the outlet.

In one high-profile instance at Columbia University in New York, more than 100 people were arrested Thursday as students and faculty protested the university’s Israel-related investments. The demonstrations mirror a week of protests at the university in 1968 over the Vietnam War, which led to more than 700 arrests and nearly 150 reported injuries.

The present-day Columbia demonstrations seem to have added fuel to numerous other demonstrations across the country despite the arrests.

A man walks past Israeli and U.S. flags alongside portraits of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas in front of the pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia University in New York on Tuesday. President Joe Biden has condemned any antisemitism on college campuses as protesters at Columbia University spent their fifth day demanding the school sever financial ties with companies that aid in the war.

On Monday, 120 protesters were arrested at New York University, 47 students were arrested at Yale University, and three people were arrested at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt. On Tuesday, nine people at the University of Minnesota were arrested, and two were arrested at Ohio State University.

The demonstrations at Columbia and across the country have been labeled as antisemitic and unsafe for Jewish students. But many of the protesters at these campuses’ “solidarity encampments” are themselves Jewish students calling for Palestinian freedom.

For example, students with the Jewish Voice for Peace, alongside Students for Justice in Palestine, at the University of Rochester formed encampments on campus, according to a post on X from the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, Justin O’Connor.

“We condemn any and all hateful or violent comments targeting Jewish students; however, in shutting down public protest and suspending students, the actions of the University of Columbia are not ensuring safety for Jewish students ― or any students ― on campus,” progressive group Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement on Monday.

The White House joined university administrators earlier this week in condemning the protests, presuming that Jewish students in the U.S. automatically support Israel’s military offensive in Gaza ― a dangerous assumption that JVP said is “actively harming Palestinian and Jewish students.”

“The [university] administration has not only harassed Jewish students and failed to ensure their safety and well-being, it has also obstructed their religious observances during Shabbat and prevented them from accessing their Jewish community on the eve of Passover,” JVP continued. “Jewish students at Columbia and Barnard have been evicted, suspended, and faced police brutality. In doing so, the administration has prevented these Jewish students from practicing their religion.”

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told reporters Tuesday that Biden is “aware of the protests” and that “this is a painful moment for many communities.”

“But as I said, when we witness calls for violence; physical intimidation; hateful, antisemitic rhetoric, those are unacceptable,” Bates said. “We will denounce them. The president knows that silence is complicity, and that’s why he uses the platforms he has to try and ensure that our fellow Americans are safe.”

Faculty and staff at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, condemned the war and President Joe Biden’s stance in a statement as Biden is set to be the college’s commencement speaker.

“Any college or university that gives its commencement stage to President Biden in this moment is endorsing genocide,” the statement states.

There has been tension between Israel and Gaza for decades, but the current portion of the conflict kicked off when Hamas militants killed approximately 1,200 people and took about 240 people hostage during an attack in Israel on Oct. 7, 2023.

As of Tuesday, the 200th day since then, Israeli defense forces have killed more than 34,000 Palestinians and injured 77,084 others, according to Al Jazeera. About 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million population has since been displaced, according to the outlet.