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There have been clashes at pro-Palestinian protests across U.S. campuses

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Protests against the war in Gaza on college campuses are continuing to spread across the country.

FADEL: Protests against the war in Gaza on college campuses are continuing to spread across the country.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah. Another is expected in New Jersey at Rutgers University, where some students plan to rally this afternoon. Like protests at other campuses, they're demanding the university divest from companies that do business with Israel nearly seven months into this war that has destroyed much of Gaza's infrastructure and killed more than 34,000 Palestinians - the majority of women and children. That's according to the health authorities in Gaza. Israel's war is in response to an attack by Hamas that killed 1,200 people, according to the Israel government. Over the weekend, police arrested nearly 300 college students and activists during protests nationwide.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann was at Colombia University in New York City, and he joins us now. Good morning, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So these demonstrations, really the beginning was at Colombia, where you were, but they've spread fast. Where are the flashpoints?

MANN: Yeah. This is really coast to coast now over the weekend. On Friday, we saw police move in to break up an encampment at Arizona State University. Saturday, dozens more students arrested at Washington University in St. Louis. And yesterday at UCLA's campus in Los Angeles, pro-Palestinian activists scuffled with pro-Israeli demonstrators.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Yelling).

MANN: Dozens of people were handcuffed and removed also from Virginia Tech's campus last night. Students and protesters around the U.S., Leila, now facing charges that range from trespassing to resisting arrest, some also facing disciplinary actions from their schools.

FADEL: Now, you described what's going on coast to coast, and you were inside the encampment at Columbia University yesterday. What was the mood there?

MANN: Well, the mood here was really calm. I saw a lot of people singing and praying.

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) Everybody say freedom to Palestine.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Freedom to Palestine.

MANN: And that mood, Leila, is a big change from a week and a half ago when campus officials summoned New York City police to break up the encampment, more than 100 arrests then. And that, of course, helped spark the nationwide protest, as you mentioned. Both sides here are clearly working to de-escalate this. Columbia University president Minouche Shafik published a public letter saying they're going to let the encampment stay for now. She wrote that to bring back the NYPD at this time would be counterproductive.

FADEL: And what about the counterprotesters just outside the campus gates?

MANN: Yeah. Some Jewish activists did gather here, and they told me they believe the students inside are motivated in part by antisemitism. We've been hearing a lot about this accusation. Here's Rhon Mizrachi. He's an Israeli American businessman. He was just outside the campus gates.

RHON MIZRACHI: It is antisemitic because what these people are actually calling from is from the river to the sea.

MANN: The meaning of that phrase is debated, but many Jews believe it calls for the destruction of Israel. Friday evening, the university announced its banned one of the student protesters from campus. That student faced a school disciplinary hearing for a social media video posted earlier this year, saying that Zionists - and I'm quoting here - "don't deserve to live." That student now says those remarks don't represent him or this protest movement.

FADEL: Now, you mentioned that the university and student protesters both appear to be working to de-escalate. The university has asked the protest leaders to make the encampment welcome to all. What did you see?

MANN: You know, I saw, Leila, signs welcoming Jewish students, signs celebrating Passover. Spoke to one Jewish student taking part in the protest who said she actually felt threatened by pro-Israel demonstrators and believes this accusation of antisemitism is being used to divert attention from Israel's military operation in Gaza and this call for divestment. She did not want her name used because of safety concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: I find it painful that antisemitism is being weaponized in order to keep Jewish people afraid and keep Jewish people, like, feeling alone and so defensive.

MANN: And so now, Leila, talks between students and campus officials are continuing, but no sign of a breakthrough here.

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann in New York City. Thank you, Brian.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.

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