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Amnesty: US universities must stop suppressing pro-Palestine protests

April 26, 2024 at 11:27 am

Members of The New School’s Students for Justice in Palestine (TNS SJP) establish a Gaza Solidarity Encampment at the University Center of The New School, demanding divestment and financial transparency from the school on April 21, 2024 in New York, United States. [Selçuk Acar – Anadolu Agency]

Amnesty International yesterday condemned American university administrations’ crackdown and suppression of war protests against Israel’s war in the besieged Gaza Strip.

In a press statement, the rights group urged  university administrations across the US to “safeguard and facilitate all students’ rights to peacefully and safely protest on their campuses.”

“University administrations across the US have gone to great lengths to prevent students’ right to protest, even involving local authorities and demanding arrests, while suspending students who engage in peaceful demonstrations,” it said, adding that pro-Palestine protests in and around college campuses have been met with “obstructive and repressive responses by the authorities.”

“Institutions of higher learning are key in helping students understand and claim their human rights. Any steps taken to silence, harass, threaten, or otherwise intimidate those who gather peacefully to protest and speak out is a violation of their rights,” said Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

“Becoming a student does not mean leaving the right to protest at the university gates.”

Read: Where is the voice of the Arab student movements?

The rights watchdog said academic freedom is integral to the right to education under international law and stressed that university administrations have a responsibility to foster an atmosphere that allows diverse viewpoints, but also to ensure that all students are able to engage in such discussions. “Campus activism is a crucial component of that freedom and discussion,” it added.

“Due to the real and known risks of police violence that students could face, administrations should summon law enforcement to disperse campus demonstrations only as a last resort, such as in the face of widespread violence or incitement to violence and discrimination,” it said.

“The right to protest is critical to freely speak out against what is happening right now in Gaza,” continued O’Brien.

“This is especially true as the US government continues to provide weapons to the Israeli military and is increasingly complicit in the atrocities being committed against Palestinians every single day.”

Amnesty said criticism of the Israeli government’s actions is not inherently anti-Semitic.

For days, hundreds of students have continued their protests in several universities in the United States to demand “a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the cessation of American military aid to Israel, and the withdrawal of university investments from companies that profit from the Israeli invasion.”

Dozens have been arrested, including university professors who have tried to stop the arrest of unarmed, non-violent protesters.