French police break up pro-Palestinian university protest

The police intervened as dozens of students gathered on a central Paris campus of the prestigious Sciences Po university on Wednesday evening, management said

Published - April 25, 2024 10:16 pm IST - Paris

French police broke up a pro-Palestinian protest by dozens of university students in Paris, officials said on Thursday, as Israel's bombardment of Gaza sparks a wave of anger across college campuses in the United States.

The police intervened as dozens of students gathered on a central Paris campus of the prestigious Sciences Po university on Wednesday evening, management said.

"After discussions with management, most of them agreed to leave the premises," university officials said in a statement, saying the protest was adding to "tensions" at the university.

But "a small group of students" refused to leave and "it was decided that the police would evacuate the site," the statement added.

Sciences Po said it regretted that "numerous attempts" to have the students leave the premises peacefully had led nowhere.

According to the police prefecture, students had set up around 10 tents.

When members of law enforcement arrived, "50 students left on their own, 70 were evacuated calmly from 0:20 am" and the police "left at 1:30 am, with no incidents to report," the police said.

The protesters demanded that Sciences Po "cut its ties with universities and companies that are complicit in the genocide in Gaza" and "end the repression of pro-Palestinian voices on campus," according to witnesses.

'Deeply worrying'

The protest was organised by the Palestine Committee of Sciences Po.

In a statement on Thursday, the group said its activists had been "carried out of the school by more than fifty members of the security forces," adding that "around a hundred" police officers were "also waiting for them outside".

Sciences Po management "stubbornly refuses to engage in genuine dialogue," the group said.

The organisers have called for "a clear condemnation of Israel's actions by Sciences Po" and a commemorative event "in memory of the innocent people killed by Israel," among other demands.

Separately, the Student Union of Sciences Po Paris said the decision by university officials to call in the police was "both shocking and deeply worrying" and reflected "an unprecedented authoritarian turn".

Many top US universities have been rocked by protests in recent weeks, with some students furious over the Israel-Hamas war and ensuing humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza.

France is home to the world's largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe's biggest Muslim community.

The war in Gaza began with an unprecedented attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

In retaliation, Israel launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,305 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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