The United States is experiencing an effervescence in the university student movement. In protest against Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, students have defied the establishment North American and intensified occupations in colleges and universities across the country.

Over the weekend, police arrested more than 350 people across the country, in an attempt to demonstrate strength in responding to public opinion – still mostly pro-Israel. Since the end of March, there have been more than a thousand prisoners.

The case of Columbia University stands out because, in addition to being one of the first occupied institutions, its campus in New York symbolizes the resistance of the Apartheid Divest movement. About 15,000 students are enrolled at Columbia.

The group demands that the university stop receiving funds linked to Israel or companies involved in the war. In addition, it demands transparency in the college’s finances and amnesty for students and professors who spoke out in favor of the Palestinians.

On Monday (29), Columbia management threatened to suspend students who continued to participate in the protests and prevent them from completing the semester. They would also be prohibited from graduating or taking up residencies at Columbia. But the order, instead of emptying the mobilization, strengthened it even more.

In a student assembly, the vote ended with broad support for the fight for peace and against Israeli attacks. The occupation was extended to other facilities. Outside the building, more and more students joined together in a human chain to shield the demonstration. According to a note from Apartheid Divest, “occupying a building is a small risk compared to the daily resistance of Palestinians in Gaza”. The ultimatum was in vain.

North American policy in general is against the occupations – but public opinion is moving in the opposite direction, increasingly adhering to solidarity with the Palestinian people. Accusing students of anti-Semitism is a smokescreen to restrict freedom of expression. There are suspicions that more violent or radical protesters may have been infiltrated into the movement.

Other universities, such as Cornell, followed Columbia’s lead and also suspended students who occupied their campus. Whether for Cornell or other occupied universities, the message that the protesters at Columbia University have repeated so often is valid: “We are the next generation of student movements after those of 1968, 1985 and 1992, which Columbia once repressed and which celebrate today.”


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