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It began with defiance at Columbia. Now students nationwide are upping their Gaza war protests

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It began with defiance at Columbia. Now students nationwide are upping their Gaza war protests
News

News

It began with defiance at Columbia. Now students nationwide are upping their Gaza war protests

2024-04-24 07:36 Last Updated At:07:40

NEW YORK (AP) — What began last week when Columbia University students refused to end their protest against Israel’s war with Hamas had turned into a much larger movement by Tuesday as students across the nation set up encampments, occupied buildings and ignored demands to leave.

Protests had been bubbling for months but kicked into a higher gear after more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators who had camped out on Columbia's upper Manhattan campus were arrested Thursday. Dozens more protesters have been arrested at other campuses since, and many now face charges of trespassing or disorderly conduct.

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New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. The NYPD said 133 protesters were taken into custody on Monday, and all have been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

NEW YORK (AP) — What began last week when Columbia University students refused to end their protest against Israel’s war with Hamas had turned into a much larger movement by Tuesday as students across the nation set up encampments, occupied buildings and ignored demands to leave.

Students protest at an encampment on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Students protest at an encampment on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Students protest at an encampment outside the Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Students protest at an encampment outside the Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday night, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday night, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather near an encampment set up in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather near an encampment set up in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

NYPD officers from the Strategic Response Group form a wall of protection around Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Michael Gerber and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kay Daughtry, not in the picture, during a press conference regarding the ongoing pro-Palestinians protest encampment at Columbia University in New York on Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

NYPD officers from the Strategic Response Group form a wall of protection around Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Michael Gerber and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kay Daughtry, not in the picture, during a press conference regarding the ongoing pro-Palestinians protest encampment at Columbia University in New York on Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

A sign sits erected at the pro-Palestinian demonstration encampment at Columbia University in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

A sign sits erected at the pro-Palestinian demonstration encampment at Columbia University in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

With tensions at Columbia continuing to run high and some students afraid to set foot on the campus, officials said the Ivy League school will switch to hybrid learning for the rest of the semester, which will be finished by the end of next week.

At nearby New York University, police said 133 protesters were taken into custody late Monday and all had been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. New York City Mayor Eric Adams said police officers were hit with bottles and other objects at some of this week’s protests.

In Connecticut, police arrested 60 protesters — including 47 students — Monday at Yale University, after they refused to leave an encampment on a plaza at the center of campus.

Yale President Peter Salovey said protesters had declined an offer to end the demonstration and meet with trustees. After several warnings, school officials determined “the situation was no longer safe,” so police cleared the encampment and made arrests.

In the Midwest on Tuesday, a demonstration at the center of the University of Michigan campus had grown to nearly 40 tents, and nine anti-war protesters at the University of Minnesota were arrested after police took down an encampment in front of the library. Hundreds rallied to the Minnesota campus in the afternoon to demand their release.

On the West Coast, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, announced that its campus would be closed through Wednesday after demonstrators occupied a building Monday night. Three protesters were arrested. Classes were to be conducted remotely, the school said on its website.

Since the war in Gaza began, colleges and universities have struggled to balance safety with free speech rights. Many long tolerated protests but are now doling out more heavy-handed discipline.

Harvard University in Massachusetts has tried to stay a step ahead of protests by locking most gates into its famed Harvard Yard and limiting access to those with school identification. The school has also posted signs that warn against setting up tents or tables on campus without permission.

Literature Ph.D. student Christian Deleon said he understood why the Harvard administration may be trying to avoid protests but said there still has to be a place for students to express what they think.

“We should all be able to use these kinds of spaces to protest, to make our voices heard,” he said.

Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said college leaders faced extremely tough decisions because they had a responsibility to ensure people could express their views, even when others found them offensive.

“But they also need to protect students from targeted harassment, threats and intimidation," he said. “And sometimes that line can seem like a gray one.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union cautioned universities against being too quick to call in law enforcement in a statement Tuesday.

“Officials should not conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism or use hate incidents as a pretext to silence political views they oppose,” said Donna Lieberman, the group’s executive director.

Leo Auerbach, a student at the University of Michigan, said the differing stances on the war hadn’t led to his feeling unsafe on campus but he has been fearful of the “hateful rhetoric and antisemitic sentiment being echoed.”

“If we’re trying to create an inclusive community on campus, there needs to be constructive dialogue between groups,” Auerbach said. “And right now, there’s no dialogue that is occurring.”

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, physics senior Hannah Didehbani said protesters were inspired by those at Columbia.

“Right now there are several professors on campus who are getting direct research funding from Israel’s ministry of defense,” she said. “We’ve been calling for MIT to cut those research ties.”

Protesters at the University of California, Berkeley, which had an encampment of about 30 tents Tuesday, were also inspired by Columbia's demonstrators, “who we consider to be the heart of the student movement,” said law student Malak Afaneh.

Columbia President Minouche Shafik said in a message to the school community Monday that she was “deeply saddened” by what was happening on the campus, where some Jewish students say the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson planned a trip to visit Jewish students at the university on Wednesday and address antisemitism on college campuses in a press conference.

Columbia has a history of protest, most notably in 1968, when hundreds of students angry about racism and the Vietnam War occupied five campus buildings. After a week, a thousand police officers swept in and cleared them out, making 700 arrests. The Associated Press reported at the time that 100 students and 15 police officers were injured.

Campus protests began after Hamas’ deadly attack on southern Israel, when militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. During the ensuing war, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and noncombatants but says at least two-thirds of the dead are children and women.

Perry reported from Meredith, New Hampshire. Associated Press writers Will Weissert in Triangle, Virginia; Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Steve LeBlanc in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Dave Collins in Hartford, Connecticut; Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri; Haven Daley in San Francisco; and John Antczak in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. The NYPD said 133 protesters were taken into custody on Monday, and all have been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. The NYPD said 133 protesters were taken into custody on Monday, and all have been released with summonses to appear in court on disorderly conduct charges. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

Students protest at an encampment on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Students protest at an encampment on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Students protest at an encampment outside the Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Students protest at an encampment outside the Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday night, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

New York City Police Department officers arrest pro-Palestinian protesters outside a student-led encampment at New York University on Monday night, April 22, 2024, in New York. The protest and encampment was set up to demand the university divest from weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government. (AP Photo/Noreen Nasir)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather near an encampment set up in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather near an encampment set up in front of Sproul Hall on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., Tuesday, April 23, 2024. The Israel-Hamas war protests creating friction at universities across the United States escalated Tuesday as some colleges encouraged students to attend classes remotely and dozens faced charges after setting up tents on campuses and ignoring official requests to leave. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

NYPD officers from the Strategic Response Group form a wall of protection around Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Michael Gerber and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kay Daughtry, not in the picture, during a press conference regarding the ongoing pro-Palestinians protest encampment at Columbia University in New York on Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

NYPD officers from the Strategic Response Group form a wall of protection around Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters Michael Gerber and Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kay Daughtry, not in the picture, during a press conference regarding the ongoing pro-Palestinians protest encampment at Columbia University in New York on Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

A sign sits erected at the pro-Palestinian demonstration encampment at Columbia University in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

A sign sits erected at the pro-Palestinian demonstration encampment at Columbia University in New York, Monday, April 22, 2024. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

FILE - Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Mourners in black began gathering Tuesday for days of funerals and processions for Iran's late president, foreign minister and others killed in a helicopter crash, a government-led series of ceremonies aimed at both honoring the dead and projecting strength in an unsettled Middle East.

For Iran's Shiite theocracy, mass demonstrations have been crucial since millions thronged the streets of Tehran to welcome Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution. An estimated 1 million turned out in 2020 for processions for the late Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was slain in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.

Whether President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others draw the same crowd remains in question, particularly as Raisi died in a helicopter crash, won his office in the lowest-turnout election in the country's history and presided over sweeping crackdowns on all dissent. Prosecutors already have warned people over showing any public signs of celebrating his death and a heavy security force presence has been seen on the streets of Tehran since the crash.

But Raisi, 63, had been discussed as a possible successor for Iran's supreme leader, the 85-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His death now throws that selection into question, particularly as there is no heir-apparent cleric for the presidency ahead of planned June 28 elections.

“Raisi’s death comes at a moment when the Islamist regime is consolidated,” wrote Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute. “In short, there will be no power vacuum in Tehran; nonetheless, post-Khamenei Iran suddenly looks far less predictable than it did just a few days ago.”

A procession Tuesday morning led by a semitruck carrying the caskets of the dead slowly moved through the narrow streets of downtown Tabriz, the closest major city near the site of the crash Sunday. Thousands in black slowly walked beside the coffins, some throwing flowers up to them as an emcee wept through a loudspeaker for men he described as martyrs.

The bodies will travel on to the holy Shiite seminary city of Qom before traveling to Tehran later Tuesday. On Wednesday, a funeral presided over by Khamenei will then turn into a procession as well. On Thursday, Raisi's hometown of Birjand will see a procession, followed by a funeral and burial at the Imam Reza shrine in the holy city of Mashhad, the only imam of the Shiite's faith buried in Iran.

That shrine has long been a center for pilgrims and sees millions visit each year. Over the centuries, its grounds have served as the final burial site for heroes in Persian history. It's an incredibly high, rare honor in the faith. Iranian President Mohammad-Ali Rajai, the only other president to die in office when he was killed in a 1981 bombing, was buried in Tehran.

Iran's theocracy declared five days of mourning, encouraging people to attend the public mourning sessions. Typically, government employees and schoolchildren attend such events en masse, while others take part out of patriotism, curiosity or to witness historic events.

Across Iran, its rural population often more closely embraces the Shiite faith and the government. However, Tehran has long held a far different view of Raisi and his government's policies as mass protests have roiled the capital for years.

The most recent involved the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini, a woman detained over her allegedly loose headscarf, or hijab. The monthslong security crackdown that followed the demonstrations killed more than 500 people and saw over 22,000 detained. In March, a United Nations investigative panel found that Iran was responsible for the “physical violence” that led to Amini’s death.

On Sunday night, as news of the helicopter crash circulated, some offered anti-government chants in the night. Fireworks could be seen in some parts of the capital, though Sunday also marked a remembrance for Imam Reza, which can see them set off as well. Critical messages and dark jokes over the crash also circulated online.

Iran's top prosecutor has already issued an order demanding cases be filed against those “publishing false content, lies and insults” against Raisi and others killed in the crash, according to the semiofficial ISNA news agency.

Meanwhile Tuesday, Iran’s new Assembly of Experts opened its first session after an election that decided the new assembly, a panel of which both Raisi and the late Tabriz Friday leader Mohammad Ali Ale-Heshem were members. Flowers sat on the seats they would have occupied at the meeting of the 88-member panel, which is tasked with selecting the country's next supreme leader.

People hold up posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

People hold up posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Women attend a mourning ceremony for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Women attend a mourning ceremony for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

People attend a mourning ceremony for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, shown in the posters, at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

People attend a mourning ceremony for Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, shown in the posters, at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

People hold up posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

People hold up posters of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a mourning ceremony for him at Vali-e-Asr square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Monday, May 20, 2024. President Raisi and the country's foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

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