Pro-Palestine Students Protests Face Police Brutality

GWU Gaza Solidarity Encampment emptied May 8th

A record number of student protests have taken place over the past two months. The students’ courage and persistence have helped spread copy-cat protests around the globe. Despite enduring police brutality and other penalties, these social justice warriors truly deserve commendation for showing moral fiber and support for the Palestinians trapped in Gaza.

However most of mainstream media coverage about the college protests are biased. They focus on disruptive activity or event escalations just before police clampdowns. The police brutality is depicted as justified law-and-order type of righteousness—entirely necessary.

Of course, now the U.S. is heavily invested in “the stick approach” whereby billions of dollars is afforded for sophisticated “counter-terrorism” operations, right here on American soil.

On May Day, instead of discussing the rights of workers around the world, in the United States it was changed to “Law Day” since 1958 when President Eisenhower wanted to subvert the International Workers Day movement. Today we have gone from being a champion of the workers-rights movements, as Dr. Shiva discusses in his talk, “May Day—Why it Matters to Every American,” to being a champion of surveillance, warrantless spying, endless wars, and now also genocide.

So the fact that massive protests and actions began on college campuses this spring semester speaks volumes of hope from today’s youth. These students are real millennials—many were born literally after the millenium or year 2000. They are so young that they were in elementary school while this reporter worked in school districts. They are masters at using social media and organizing remotely. They grew up being steadfastly indoctrinated by teachers, authorities, and the establishment that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are necessary for freedom and democracy.

One would have thought up to a few years ago that the only type of protest that they were capable of were those ensconced within the binary framework of identity politics. We thought they only knew how to come out for LGBTQ+ or BLM, nothing more. Some even believed that they have already transitioned into becoming the transhuman automatons that the globalists long for, at most capable of working their thumbs, and commanding the armies of robots or robotic software by which they hope to control human destiny.

Now all of that has been proven wrong: humans will always be capable of independent thought, autonomous organizing, and mass action. Yet those on the side of the globalists have chosen to spend even more billions of dollars directed towards encouraging co-partnerships, such as with the IDF for international police exchanges; police, first-responders, and medics who receive advanced training in Israel on riot-suppression and surveillance techniques. On a societal scale, it would appear that Congress has succeeded in overruling a truly patriotic culture. In late April, H.R. 6090, the “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2023” passed with a House vote of 320-91. Additionally Congress also renewed Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (aka FISA) by a Senate vote of 60-34 on April 12, 2024, which allows for warrantless spying, and which can result in citizens being placed on brownlists or no-fly lists.

Combined with the new Fact Sheets published by the White House regarding 100 new actions for combatting anti-semitism on college campuses, and it is not difficult to imagine that with a single phonecall from a campus president, suddenly thousands of participating demonstrators and students, including faculty, are now part of secret McCarthyite dossiers. Across the nation, such as at Ohio State University, University of Pennsylvania, and Emory University, hundreds of anti-riot police, neighborhood police, campus police, sheriffs, helicopters, secret overhead drones, and security specialists descended upon mostly peaceful demonstrators, kettled them, and dismantled their encampments. Obviously the police don’t see people: just enemy combatants; they need at least 4:1 ratio to catch a victim while blocking media coverage of the heavy-handed assault.

Tellingly at UCLA, the pro-Zionist agitators who threw flashbangs into the encampments located in the campus quad (Dickson Plaza) and other provocations were not stopped by campus police whatsoever. The agitators are hardly ever arrested even when they are seen punching, attacking, or throwing things at pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

From the perspective of the campus as a place of intellectual development, discourse, and debate, particularly in the cause for social justice, is the police-state legalizing one-sidedness for the sake of normalizing pro-Zionist and also imperialistic violence? This more than anything else is what disturbs the academics and alumni from MIT in Boston to University of Texas in Austin to UC San Diego, and even including George Washington University (an area-wide activity hub for seven other nearby universities) in Washington, DC.

“We had hundreds of riot-gear officers, state troopers…all to come down for a student encampment that was peaceful throughout its time here.” — MIT faculty

“I’m heart-broken this morning, not because I support the cause of the students or I’m against it. It’s because I support democracy.” —Tulia Falleti, Political Science Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Democracy Now interviewed two professors and a medical student from Emory University where particularly brutish police tactics were deployed, including wrestling and pinning down students, and even professors, using headholds. The medical student, who is an organizer, explained why it is important to organize, first to try to stop the ongoing genocide in Gaza, then to put pressure on universities to divest from the apartheid state, and finally to stop Cop City, a planned police training center in Atlanta, Ga. that will enable more international exchanges with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Emil Keme, an indigenous English professor, asserted that indigenous lands should not be used to enable more oppression, such as Cop City will.

The birth of the nationwide protests started at Columbia University in New York City. Its first tent encampment, called the Gaza Solidarity Encampment, started in April 17, 2024, with approximately 50 tents. News media, particularly grassroots media station Status Coup News, has covered events there extensively throughout the past months. It has attracted off-campus protesters and visitors who hold rallies outside the gates of the campus. The police have tried to empty the encampment and arrest students to no avail, while celebrity philosophers, academics, lecturers, politicians, and even spiritual Imam have made speeches to the protesters.

The spirit of the student-protesters is encapsulated in the fighting rhetoric and remarks of organizers, such as at CUNY-Columbia Student Press Conference on May 1st, 2024. Here are the voices captured by Status Coup News on International Workers Day in New York City:

“Protesters stood their ground as officers came in with their batons and mace. They stood their ground as they swarmed and viciously attacked them. Police broke the ankle of an undergraduate student and broke the teeth of two protesters, attacked and burned many students, faculty, and at least one journalist with pepper spray at close range. They beat many more with batons. Legal observers were denied entry, and amongst some of the very first people to be arrested was faculty member who had been in negotiations with the president and the vice-chancellor moments ago…” —Palestinian-American female enrollee and spokesperson, Columbia University

“We salute each and every single person standing up to this genocidal machine…We remind the larger community that we are protesting not to assert our first amendment rights but we are protesting to end this genocide. We are protesting to call for a dismantling of Zionism, which includes complete divestment…”

The theme of togetherness, even while the police are picking off protesters from the marching crowds crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, shoving journalists away, using excessive strong-arm tactics (as if they were dealing with armed street thugs), is a recurrent meme among the new generation of resistance. They are not deterred; it is as if they had studied the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) cartoon books from the 1960s. Figuratively, the post-millennials are the grandchildren of the Flower Children, and this might account for the generational lapse from the Yuppie-generation.

“Mainstream media is currently lying about outside detractors and overblowing property damage in order to justify brutality and distract from their complicity and genocide just as they did with the Civil Rights Movement, Black Lives Matter, and every other social movement for change.” — Female student and activist, CUNY

“The colonial capitalist state is targeting the student uprising because of how successful it has been; how principled and politically clear it has been in defense of Palestinian Liberation. They have called out the horrors of genocide and the role of this government…in supporting and directly enacting this violence…” — Lecturer, Columbia University

Working-class opposition is fundamental to any third-party movement, as mentors keep reminding the students that Zionism and imperialism are inseparable, as seen in the violence of settler-colonialism.

“Zionism is racism in the service of Imperialism.” — Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, Truth Freedom Health Movement

“I am a proud anti-Zionist Jew…I never will figure out [my family tree] because of a mass genocide and I think that as a Jewish person and anyone else who’s Jewish here and elsewhere, if we have any kind of obligation to anything, any kind of allegiance to anything, it’s not whatever the f*ck Israel is. It’s stopping anything like that, anything that happened to our people, from ever happening again. That’s about it: Free Palestine, and not in our f*cking name! —Older woman, GWU protests in DC

“I’m a Jewish woman but I don’t think what they’re doing in Gaza and Palestine aligns with my beliefs in Judaism and what the core beliefs in Judaism are. I think there are thousands of Jewish students, Palestinian students, Nondemoninational students here, and I don’t think any of us plan on leaving…I think we’ll leave once our demands are met.” —JVP student organizer, GWU protests in DC

Tourists and beatniks pause in front of the White House

Tourists and wiser Flower Children in front of the White House Pennsylvania Avenue

Of course online and elsewhere, various commentators and political analysts express skepticism and dismay over the student protests. For instance, Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos, in discussing the Israeli genocide in Gaza at PressTV, recently expressed that the protests will not really help anything, that Israel will go on, because the West needs access to Gazan oil. For an entirely different reason, limited hangout Brendon O’Connell at Unit 8200 on believes that the one-world bankers, industrialists, defense industry complex, and WEF politicians understand that we are heading into a multipolar world order, it is just a matter of time. All the wars, he believes, are orchestrated, and the proof is the interconnectedness of the hardware and software backdoors in computer systems. So much of the core programming and manufacturing design is done inside Israel that the U.S. infrastructure is compromised with their spy-agency kill-switches—we must comply with Israeli prerogatives—or else.

Nevertheless both these commentators and the trolls cannot discount the number of lives being lost daily in these ongoing wars, whether in Ukraine or in the Middle East. The idealistic young people recognize that universal human rights must apply to everyone, and that human life is inviolable. True Jews would never believe in a shredding of the Bill of Human Rights as published at the United Nations. We must fight all forms of racial, religious, ethnic, and/or class supremacy: “You cannot be against any supremacy if you are for any supremacy.

And yet other people just don’t want to engage in, have no time for, and might even believe that it is inappropriate to involve themselves in the Palestinian struggle. To this, one must consult some of today’s foremost thinkers (Imam) in the Muslim world. Is it bad to be involved in the Palestinian struggle, to be involved in politics?

If one follows the news at all, which founder Ben Franklin was an open advocate for (he would despise the police surrounding those students huddled around his statue at the University of Pennsylvania), being self-educated in the real events on the ground requires exploring international media outlets, such as Al Jazeera. He would also hold the police surrounding those students huddled around his statue at the University of Pennsylvania on May 10th 2024 in revulsion, since Philadephia is the birthplace of the American Declaration of Independence, and Articles of Confederation. Everyone knows that the invasion of Rafah in Gaza is imminent, where almost 1.4 million people have gathered in a city that was designed for 275,000 people pre-October 7th. Netanyahu has publicly vowed time and again to invade Rafah so that a complete cleansing of Hamas in Gaza can occur (or so that all of what was formerly Gaza is destroyed).

The most recent IDF atrocities are a complete sealing of the borders with barely the smallest trickle of supplies coming in through Kerem Shalom crossing. The IDF has been firing upon and setting fires to UNRWA facilities in Gaza and in East Jerusalem. Investigators have uncovered 10 mass graves near hospitals including at Al Shifa hospital. Every day, by design, a number of killings are conducted, but the press reports a typical count of 30 per day, so that it appears that the bloodshed is limited. Again, the official counts of those killed do not account for much larger and unaccounted for deaths of those dying from starvation, dehydration, gone missing, poor health, fallen ill, untreated injuries, internal bleeding, lacking medical supplies, failing heart, suicide, or as yet undiscovered additional mass executions.

As Shakh Yasir Qadhi put it in “University Students Protesting for Palestine” khutbah on May 1, 2024, it is unconscionable to let others do the protesting for Moslems just because it may seem irreligious (haram). We cannot live merely based on a history of the past; what Muhammad struggled against in his time is analogous to the struggles in Palestine today and the ongoing persecution. The extent of protests nationwide starting at these prestigious campuses is a testimony to what has become relevant for America, and this making of history is activism countervailing the history-making genocide created by US-funded Israel. The push for universities to divest is because their vast foundational investments literally help bankroll Israel’s expansion into occupied territory and relentless military operations.

“In my humble opinion not only is this part of our religion, I expect Allah to reward those students and protesters who are doing this with good intention, and I do believe this is part of what we need to do.”

Qadhi is not the only Imam touring the country to speak at rallies, so are Imam Suleiman and Imam Tom. They are providing leadership and wisdom to help students who undergo punishment for their activism, anything from suspension, to being expelled, to imprisonment, to abuse by police officers. In fact, it sometimes appears the police are quite harsh toward Moslem women, such as at Emory University where the photographer showed one female student being sat on by police and suffocating under a headhold (strangulation posture) lasting for some time. Others have had their hijab yanked off in “the search for hidden bombs.” At another protest in NYC, the police tackled and held down a woman in a headhold and pushed against the wheel of a police car, just as if she were George Floyd; other cops surrounded the victim to shield the attack from the media. These cops are oblivious to the actions of the offending police (and some are turning off their body cameras). These techniques are obviously rehearsed irregardless that the victim on the ground is an unarmed female peace activist. Other police charged the students with assault even if the police bumped into them first. In one clip, a male film crew was thrown down and arrested for “assaulting” a police officer even though it appears that the police bumped into his shoulder camera.

This is why in these types of rallies, all students should undergo civil disobedience training for conducting themselves in ways that are nonviolent. They must know what to expect and how to react if they are confronted by agent-provocateurs or police. Many of the student-led encampments are peaceful, disciplined, and well-organized; they strive to understand and share the depth of their cause and commitment.

The 2024 nationwide college protests generally look nothing like the 1960s with its emphasis on free-love, experimental drugs, and tripping out while at mass demonstrations. It is the police and the Zionist activists who bring with them the willingness to conduct aggression and bring about confrontation. In contrast, today’s students appear to be receptive, eager for collaborative learning and event participation. They are open-mindedly transforming their belief in social justice into an altruistic documentable multidisciplinary capstone project.

The stages of activity involvement are also a subject for study. Some students can afford to be involved in all phases, and do not mind staying put to the very end. While others want to remain at the sidelines, for instance, coordinating the audio. Still others can only serve in roles as accessories, researchers, facilitators, or remote organizers. Even a decision to conduct a public demonstration at the commencement ceremony has to be carefully orchestrated, for instance, holding up a Free Palestine flag or flashing the kufiya scarf.

After one’s arrest, after watching numerous police-kettling and attacks on community protesters, such as at Ohio State University, or the viciousness of police upon unarmed women and teenagers, one cannot help feeling like the IDF is embedding within the U.S. state police force. How else to explain the “skunk gas” sprayed upon students by ex-IDF Columbia University students as a dismissable case? A totalitarian partner for a best friend is bound to drag down what passes for democracy today. This is a justifiable reason why even at GWU protests, there was an late-afternoon call for those who wanted to participate in evening mass and prayer.

For Moslem students the khutbah talks by the Imam offer comfort and hope. For socialist-leaning progressive types, Breakthrough News recently provided a thoughtful conversation, “Thousands of U.S. Students Arrested While Israel Invades Rafah.” Host Brian Becker interviews Layan Sima Fuleihan, a Palestinian organizer and educational director, and Manolo De Los Santos, a director at The People’s Forum for a stimulating deconstruction of recent events. For instance, Manolo has been subjected to arrest and surveillance by the police, as well as made the subject of several scathing articles at the New York Post. Becker helps provide a historical context in comparison with the civil rights and Vietnam war protest struggles.

Are we more or less of a democracy than fifty years ago? Perhaps less, considering today’s legal over-reaches for the government, the police, the army, the courts, the prisons, and the corporatocracy against the public. U.S. Gaza protesters are now beset by the entire system, just because the U.S. is in lockstep with the Zionist regime.

The fact is that the U.S. is not only losing in national face, but world face. All one has to do is look at the recent votes at the United Nations, where repeated calls for humanitarian ceasefire exposes the U.S. as the only great power voting “No.” Israel is always backed by its one great friend, the U.S., which persistently speaks for, acts in defense of, and continues to provide weapons to. The United States is also the lone “No” in repeated bids by Palestine to become an independent member state. On May 10th 2024, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly backed yet another resolution for Palestine to receive full U.N. membership. 142 out of 193 member states want to grant Palestine full membership, but not the United States. Many nations now believe that this is the only way out from the conflict: forcing a viable two-state solution.

In summary, this spring the number of universities and colleges participating in encampments and protests continues to grow in spite of the number of police confrontations. Judging from the number nationwide—at least 52 protests and encampments—they will not abate. The students will join or organize new community protests. Some public universities, such as Cal State University Los Angeles, are quite tolerant of the solidarity encampment, as if they might serve as welcome mat just in case UCLA students are forced to transfer down. Gaza Solidarity Encampments serve as an identifiable reminder to the community conscience that Biden’s Build Back Better must really start here at home, given that there are already so many homeless people encamping on the streets of Los Angeles.

Editorial and photos by AGN