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US Campus Protests Wane After Police Crackdowns, Stern White House Order

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Schools officials said that more than 200 people were arrested.

New York:

Pro-Palestinian protests that have rocked US campuses for weeks were more muted Friday after a series of clashes with police, mass arrests and a stern White House directive to restore order.

Police in Manhattan cleared an encampment at New York University after sunrise, with video posted to social media by an official showing protesters exiting their tents and dispersing when ordered to do so.

The scene appeared relatively calm compared to crackdowns at other campuses around the country — and some worldwide — where protests over Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza have multiplied in recent weeks.

University administrators, who have tried to balance the right to protest and complaints of violence and hate speech, have increasingly called on police to clear out the demonstrators ahead of year-end exams and graduation ceremonies.

At the University of Chicago, the school’s president said talks with protesters on a compromise had failed and indicated that the university might intervene in an encampment there as a result.

The news came the same day that dozens of American flag-wielding counter-protesters showed up and confronted the school’s pro-Palestinian group, but police separated the two sides, local media reported.

More than 2,000 arrests have been made in the past two weeks across the United States, some during violent confrontations with police, giving rise to accusations of use of excessive force.

President Joe Biden, who has faced pressure from all political sides over the conflict in Gaza, gave his first expansive remarks on the protests Thursday, saying that “order must prevail.”

“We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent,” Biden said in a brief address from the White House.

“But neither are we a lawless country. We’re a civil society, and order must prevail.”

His remarks came hours after police moved in on demonstrators at the University of California, Los Angeles, which had seen a violent confrontation when counter-protesters attacked a fortified encampment there.

A large police contingent forcibly cleared the sprawling encampment early Thursday while flash bangs were launched to disperse crowds gathered outside.

Schools officials said that more than 200 people were arrested.

On the US West coast Friday, protesters at a University of California, Riverside encampment were set to disband by midnight following a compromise with administrators. The agreement came after similar compromises at New Jersey’s Rutgers University Thursday and Brown University in Rhode Island earlier in the week.

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Republicans have accused Biden of being soft on what they say is anti-Semitic sentiment among the protesters, while he faces opposition in his own party for his strong support for Israel’s military offensive.

“There should be no place on any campus, no place in America for anti-Semitism, or threats of violence against Jewish students,” Biden said.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona echoed the condemnation in a letter to university leaders on Friday, pledging to investigate reports of anti-Semitism “aggressively,” CNN reported.

Meanwhile, similar student protests have popped up in countries around the world, including in Australia, France, Mexico and Canada.

In Paris, police moved in to clear students staging a sit-in at the Sciences Po university.

An encampment has grown at Canada’s prestigious McGill University, where administrators on Wednesday demanded it be taken down “without delay.”

However, police had yet to take action against the site as of Friday.

The Gaza war started when Hamas militants staged an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel estimates that 128 hostages remain in Gaza. The Israeli military says 35 of them are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed more than 34,600 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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