36 arrested at Ohio State as campus protests spread across the country

More than 30 people were arrested Thursday at Ohio State University during a protest against Israel on campus.

The protest was the latest on U.S. campuses to end with police intervention and arrests. Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers were called to the Columbus campus to help break up the protest.

The event was organized by a collection of local Ohio university chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine, organizers told the Columbus Dispatch. Omar Heif, 21, a University of Toledo student and event organizer, said the event was intended to send a message that university students across the state are in support of divestment.

“You can silence us, you can beat us, you can arrest us, but at the end of the day, we’re all connected,” Heif told the Dispatch.

Ben Johnson, an OSU spokesman, said the 36 arrests, including 20 students, came after protestors refused to leave late in the evening.

“Demonstrators exercised their first amendment rights for several hours yesterday evening and were then instructed to disperse. Well established university rules prohibit camping and overnight events,” Ben Johnson, OSU spokesman, said in statement.

As the death toll mounts in the war in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis worsens, protesters at universities across the country are demanding schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they say are enabling the conflict. Some Jewish students say the protests have veered into antisemitism and made them afraid to set foot on campus, partly prompting the calls for police intervention.

Johnson said state law prohibits state entities like Ohio State from divesting in Israel.

“Ohio Revised Code Section 9.76 prohibits the university from divesting any interests in Israel and prohibits adopting or adhering to a policy that requires divestment from Israel or with persons or entities associated with it,” Johnson said in a statement.

The students at Columbia University who inspired pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country dug in at their encampment for the 10th day Friday as administrators and police at campuses wrestle with how to address protests that have seen scuffles with police and hundreds of arrests.

At Ohio State, those who refused to leave after warnings were arrested and charged with criminal trespass, said Johnson, citing rules barring overnight events.

Students have held protests at Miami University and Ohio University this week. On Friday, no protestors were on campus before noon at Miami, Wright State University or the University of Dayton.

The clock is ticking as May commencement ceremonies near, putting added pressure on schools to clear demonstrations. At Columbia, protesters defiantly erected a tent encampment where many are set to graduate in front of families in just a few weeks.

Columbia officials said that negotiations were showing progress as the school’s self-imposed early Friday deadline to reach an agreement on dismantling the encampment came and went. Nevertheless, two police buses were parked nearby and there was a noticeable presence of private security and police at entrances to the campus.

“We have our demands; they have theirs,” said Ben Chang, a spokesperson for Columbia University, adding that if the talks fail the university will have to consider other options.

Just past midnight, a group of some three dozen pro-Palestinian protesters handed out signs and started chanting outside of the locked Columbia University gates. They then marched away as at least 40 police officers assembled nearby.

On Friday morning, hundreds of counterprotesters gathered on the streets outside Columbia, many holding Israeli flags and chanting for the hostages being held by Hamas and other militants to be released.

California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, has been negotiating with students who have been barricaded inside a campus building since Monday, rebuffing an attempt by the police to clear them out. Faculty members met with protesters Thursday to try to negotiate a solution as the campus remains shut down at least through the weekend.

The school’s senate of faculty and staff demanded the university’s president resign in a nonbinding vote of no confidence Thursday, citing the decision to call police in to remove the barricaded students Monday.

On the other end of the state, the University of Southern California canceled the school’s May 10 graduation ceremony. The announcement was made a day after more than 90 protesters were arrested on campus. The university said it will still host dozens of commencement events, including all the traditional individual school commencement ceremonies.

Tensions were already high after USC canceled a planned commencement speech by the school’s pro-Palestinian valedictorian, citing safety concerns.

At the City College of New York on Thursday, hundreds of students who were gathered on the lawn beneath the Harlem campus’ famed gothic buildings erupted in cheers after a small contingent of police officers retreated from the scene. In one corner of the quad, a “security training” was held among students.

Elsewhere in the city, about a dozen protesters spent the night in tents and sleeping bags inside a building at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The institute’s museum, which is in the building where the demonstrators set up camp, was closed Friday.

Protesters also stayed overnight at the encampment at George Washington University, according to local news stations. In a statement after the Thursday evening deadline to disperse, the university in Washington said the encampment violated university policies and the administration and police were figuring out how to address the situation.

At Emerson College in Boston, 108 people were arrested at an encampment by early Thursday. Video shows police first warning students in an alleyway to leave. Students linked arms to resist officers, who moved forcefully through the crowd and threw some protesters to the ground.

“As the night progressed, it got tenser and tenser. There were just more cops on all sides. It felt like we were being slowly pushed in and crushed,” said Ocean Muir, a sophomore.

Muir said police lifted her by her arms and legs and carried her away. Along with other students, Muir was charged Thursday with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Boston police said four officers suffered injuries that were not life-threatening during the confrontation.

The University of Texas at Austin campus was much calmer Thursday after 57 people were jailed and charged with criminal trespass a day earlier, when state troopers in riot gear and on horseback bulldozed into protesters. University officials pulled back barricades and allowed demonstrators onto the main square beneath the school’s iconic clock tower.

At Emory University in Atlanta, local and state police swept in to dismantle a camp. Some officers carried semiautomatic weapons, and video shows officers using a stun gun on one protester they had pinned to the ground. The university said late Thursday that objects were thrown at officers and they deployed “chemical irritants” as a crowd control measure.

Jail records showed 22 people arrested by Emory police were charged with disorderly conduct. Emory said it had been notified that 28 people were arrested, including 20 members of the university community, and some were released.

Since the Israel-Hamas war began, the U.S. Education Department has launched civil rights investigations into dozens of universities and schools in response to complaints of antisemitism or Islamophobia. Among those under investigation are many colleges facing protests, including Harvard University and Columbia.

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