Why are Arizona students protesting?


Colleges across the country witnessed a mass movement of students protesting Israel's actions in the Israel-Hamas war, which has been raging since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7. Demonstrations have also reached colleges in Arizona, including Arizona State University in Tempe, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and the University of Arizona in Tucson.

The war has devastated the Gaza Strip, destroying 360,000 buildings – including homes, schools, mosques and hospitals – and killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, whose figures include combatants and civilians. The war broke out when 1,500 Hamas-led militants stormed the Israeli border, killing 1,200 people and taking more than 240 hostages, some of whom were released or died.

Protests against the war and US support of the Israeli military have been ongoing for months, but more recently there was a nationwide wave of protests on college campuses that led to hundreds of arrests. Here's why these protests are happening and how they're unfolding in Arizona.

Why are students protesting?

Protesters are gathering in the belief that the Israeli Defense Forces' response has exceeded the number of initial attacks and that there must be a ceasefire to prevent further casualties. Many protesters hope to dissuade the United States and colleges from continuing to support Israel, and many are also demanding that Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories.

On April 17, protesters formed a camp on the Columbia University campus, waving flags and signs to show solidarity with Palestinians. According to the New York Times, at least 108 protesters were arrested the following day as a result of the encampments.

On Wednesday, a horde of protesters occupied Columbia's Hamilton Hall and hung a flag that read “Hind Hall” across the side of the building, a tribute to Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed in Gaza in January. The University of Southern California closed its campus and canceled its graduation ceremony after 93 people were arrested. More protests have taken shape, with demonstrations occurring across Arizona since last week.

Why are ASU students protesting?

Protesters who have been staying in ASU encampments initially demanded that the university give up all of its funding to Israel, force ASU President Michael Crow to resign and end ASU police presence.

In addition, protesters have called for the reinstatement of MECHA de ASU, a student political organization whose February 12 post calling for the death of “the Zionist” and “the settler” led to its suspension.

What happened at the ASU protests?

On April 26, up to 250 demonstrators took part in what was supposed to be a day-long encampment on campus before police broke it up and three people were arrested. The camp was founded by a group calling themselves “Students Against Apartheid.” Campus police told the protesters they were violating Misdemeanor Law ARS 13-1502, a misdemeanor related to someone remaining on the property “after a reasonable request to leave” by law enforcement.

The law was used when officers arrested protesters in the early morning of April 27.

The camp began to falter, leading to the arrest of around 70 people. At some point, sprinklers were turned on, spraying the pro-Palestinian protesters. Four women said their hijabs were forcibly removed by police. Those arrested were charged with trespassing, but the Maricopa County District Attorney's Office had not filed a prosecution as of May 2.

The Alumni Lawn where the encampment was located was cordoned off with metal barricades, and several employees of a private security company said ASU had ordered 24-hour guarding.

About 50 protesters gathered outside ASU on Wednesday evening, waving Palestinian flags and holding ceasefire signs. The gathering took place near a bus stop on East University Drive.

Why are UA students protesting?

The protests began in late April and were launched on the afternoon of April 30 at the UA in Tucson by the group Students Against Apartheid. The group called on the university to end its partnership with local weapons manufacturers, including Raytheon, to supply weapons to Israel. Raytheon is the largest private employer in Tucson.

Here are Students Against Apartheid's demands for the University of Arizona:

  • Publicly condemn Israel’s “genocidal campaign” and call for a permanent ceasefire.
  • Disclose financial ties to Israel and weapons manufacturers.
  • Divestment of all companies “that profit from the occupation of Palestine”.
  • Members of the College of Engineering Dean's Advisory Board with ties to Israeli companies Elbit Systems, Raytheon, Caterpillar and Intel Corporation will be immediately fired.
  • Stop monitoring student organizers and shutting down student groups.
  • Refuse to enforce HB 2759, which prohibits public universities from recognizing a student organization that supports “a foreign terrorist organization,” the bill states.
  • End financial support for cultural and academic institutions affiliated with Israel, including study abroad programs.
  • Defund the UA Police Department.
  • Termination of cooperation with the National Center for Border Security and Immigration.

What happened at the UA protests?

University officials ordered police to enforce campus policies and clear the 50 to 70 protesters from the encampment around 2 a.m. Wednesday, after asking protesters to disperse at least a dozen times and warning of arrests and chemical munitions . Police in riot gear pushed the crowd of protesters and onlookers and fired pepper spray and rubber bullets. According to the organizers, four people were arrested, including two students. Shortly after 2:30 a.m., officials announced that the area of ​​the camp had been cleared.

Why are NAU students protesting?

Protesters at NAU are demanding that the school disclose its lobbying activities, divest from Israel, cut all ties with the country and abolish the university police force.

What happened at the NAU protests?

The encampment at NAU was cleared Tuesday evening by dozens of state and local police officers, who arrested 20 people after more than three hours during which tear gas was reportedly used.

Following Tuesday night's unrest, the university released a statement announcing the suspension of a club for violating NAU policy, as well as a new 5 p.m. curfew for all expressive activities and the ban on all temporary structures on campus, including tents, shade structures, and fences, announced. The curfew change comes just a day after the school issued a temporary 10 p.m. curfew for the group's protest and encampment.

On Wednesday, more than 100 protesters stood outside the student union, quietly supporting the suspended Students for Justice in Palestine group on campus.

But nearly two hours after the new curfew expired, the line of protesters remained standing, with no interference from police or campus officials trying to break up the demonstration.

Controversy fueled: Lawyer says women begged for 'humanity' during ASU arrest and hijab removal

The university also said police did not use tear gas, chemical irritants or Tasers Tuesday night, contradicting some reports from protesters who were at the front of the encampment when police moved in to surround the area around 10:30 p.m to clear

Anna Harden

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