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How pro-Palestinian protests unfolded on college campuses across the US: A timeline

todayMay 4, 2024

Background

Barry Winiker/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — College campuses in the U.S. have been at the center of controversial debate since Hamas launched a terrorist attack against Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel responded with a widespread bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip. Students, faculty and other members of university communities supporting Palestinians in Gaza or the Israeli invasion have been at odds for months.

About 1,200 Israelis were killed in the unprecedented incursion by Hamas, according to Israeli officials, while the death toll in Gaza has crossed 34,000, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Months of heated activism eventually led to an eruption of protests — and around-the-clock encampments — at colleges and universities around the country over Israel’s war with Hamas and universities’ investments in companies that are involved with Israel.

In the aftermath of more than 100 protesters at Columbia University being suspended and arrested April 18 at an encampment on campus — calling for the university to divest from companies involved with Israel’s war with Hamas, reveal all of its financial investments and provide amnesty for all students and faculty disciplined or fired over their pro-Palestine activism — protests and encampments spread across the country.

Hundreds of students, and many non-students, have since been arrested at universities from coast to coast despite many protests largely being peaceful. Most of the arrests have been for disturbing the peace or trespassing after refusing university requests to remove encampments, though some have been for more serious crimes.

Here is a timeline of events on campuses around the country since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Oct. 8, 2023

Over 30 Harvard University student groups led by Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee co-sign a letter saying they “hold the Israeli regime entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.”

Over the next week, tensions are high on Harvard’s campus. A bus is driven around campus showing the names and faces of students who were part of the groups that signed the letter under a banner reading “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.”

Pro-Israel students accused those behind the statement of supporting the Hamas attack, while pro-Palestinian groups denied those claims and said the statement was misinterpreted.

Some of the students faced backlash, with some saying employers rescinded job offers due to their involvement in the letter.

Oct. 10, 2023

A New York University law student releases a statement in an internal newsletter that says in part “Israel bears full responsibility for this tremendous loss of life.” The newsletter is widely shared and the student’s job offer at an international law firm is reportedly rescinded.

Oct. 11, 2023

The Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee releases a second statement saying the group has been flooded with “racist hate speech and death threats.”

Oct. 20, 2023

The doxxing campaign against pro-Palestinian college students ramps up with the group behind a truck that appeared at Harvard saying it will create online domains with students’ first and last names where it will share students’ personal information and label them as antisemitic.

Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee also releases a second statement clarifying that it opposes all violence against all innocent life.

Nov. 17, 2023

The U.S. Department of Education announces it is moving forward with investigations into five cases of antisemitism and two cases of Islamophobia at seven different schools including Cornell University, New York University, Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Nov. 30, 2023

Harvard and the New York City Department of Education are being investigated over antisemitism and islamophobia by the U.S. Department of Education.

Dec. 5, 2023

Harvard President Claudine Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth testify before a congressional committee concerning their efforts to combat antisemitism on college campuses.

Republicans on the committee, especially, express frustration with the college presidents for not doing enough to aggressively condemn those on their campuses who the members said foster antisemitism. The presidents tried to make the distinction between freedom of speech and threatening language.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik directly calls for Gay’s resignation during the hearing, but soon after all three presidents face calls to resign following their testimony.

Dec. 6, 2023

Gay tries to walk back some of her comments, saying speech that calls for the genocide of Jews is “vile” and adds, “Those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account.”

Dec. 7, 2023

Gay apologizes for her remarks before Congress in an interview with the Harvard Crimson, the college’s student newspaper.

Dec. 8, 2023

Magill voluntarily resigns as UPenn president amid the backlash over her congressional testimony.

Dec. 19, 2024

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website, publishes an anonymous complaint that alleges nearly 40 instances of plagiarism by Gay.

Jan. 2, 2024

Gay resigns as Harvard’s president following mounting accusations of plagiarism and backlash after the testimony she gave at the December congressional hearing.

Jan. 11, 2024

Harvard is sued by Jewish students citing antisemitism on campus.

The lawsuit, on behalf of members of the Students Against Antisemitism Inc., asks a judge to compel the university to enforce rules already on the books to protect Jewish students on campus and discipline classmates who violate them. Harvard told ABC News at the time that it would not comment on pending litigation.

Jan. 19, 2024

Protesters at Columbia are allegedly sprayed with a foul-smelling chemical during a divestment rally on campus.

Jan. 20, 2024

Harvard officials issue new guidance and restrictions for protests on campus amid heightened scrutiny regarding on-campus debate around the Israel-Hamas war, according to student newspaper the Harvard Crimson.

Jan. 22, 2024

Columbia’s provost says the perpetrators who are believed to have sprayed Barnard and Columbia students with a foul-smelling substance that later required them to seek medical treatment have been identified to the university and they were immediately banned from campus while the investigation continues.

Columbia also says the investigation into the incident continues and the NYPD is taking the lead.

Jan. 30, 2024

Pro-Palestinian students at Harvard file a civil rights complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights demanding an investigation into Harvard’s alleged failure to protect pro-Palestinian students from harassment, intimidation and threats.

Feb. 6, 2024

The Department of Education launches an investigation into Harvard following the civil rights complaint filed by pro-Palestinian students.

April 18, 2024

At least 108 protesters are arrested and others are suspended and removed from campus at Columbia University after administrators appeared before Congress and promised a crackdown. The move ignites outrage with protests and encampments appearing at universities around the country.

April 21, 2024

Massachusetts Institute of Technology students begin an encampment on campus, demanding the university cut research ties with Israel.

April 22, 2024

Over 150 people are arrested at an encampment at New York University. The university and student groups report different accounts of the arrests.

NYU states that protesters “breeched” a barrier limiting access to the encampment, triggering the arrests, while protesters tell ABC News it was a peaceful protest and the NYPD began making arrests while Muslim protesters were praying.

At Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, about 45 protesters are arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing.

Harvard suspends the Palestine Solidarity Committee — the only official pro-Palestinian group on campus — for the remainder of the semester.

The protests on campuses have been largely peaceful, according to school administrators, with some officials, including the NYPD, as well as protesters, blaming unaffiliated individuals for instances of violence and offensive rhetoric.

April 23, 2024

Hundreds of students protesting at California’s Cal Poly Humboldt occupy two campus buildings and a standoff with law enforcement begins.

April 24, 2024

Harvard students begin a pro-Palestinian encampment in Harvard Yard, despite the university closing the common area.

University of Southern California closes its campus to the public amid protests on campus.

USC later issues a dispersal order and the Los Angeles Police Department surrounds Alumni Park on campus. Into the evening, at least 93 people are arrested on campus, mostly on misdemeanor trespassing charges.

Fifty-five people are arrested in protests at the University of Texas at Austin, however, the Travis County Attorney’s Office later says they will not face charges due to deficiencies in probable cause.

April 25, 2024

An encampment is cleared at Emerson University in Boston, where 108 protesters are arrested and four police officers suffer non-life-threatening injuries.

Encampments begin at Princeton University, Northwestern University, Northeastern University, Brown University and UCLA.

An encampment is cleared and dozens are taken into custody at Emory University in Atlanta. Footage showed officers escorting detained protesters off campus, including in one case appearing to deploy a stun gun on an individual handcuffed on the ground.

USC cancels its main graduation ceremony, citing safety concerns.

A complaint is filed by Palestine Legal, an advocacy group centered on Palestinian Rights, on behalf of four students and the student group Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine against Columbia with the U.S. Department of Education over an alleged pattern of anti-Palestinian discrimination.

April 26, 2024

At least 16 people were arrested and charged with trespassing at Ohio State University after refusing to leave a pro-Palestinian encampment.

Columbia University continues negotiations with student protesters who are camped out on school grounds.

Cal Poly Humboldt closes campus through the end of the semester due to protests.

Sprinklers are turned on to deter a pro-Palestinian encampment at Arizona State University and at least three people are seen being arrested.

The Columbia University Senate — made up of 111 faculty, students, administrative staff and others — is set to establish a task force to investigate the school’s administration and how its actions, or lack thereof, have divided the university community.

April 27, 2024

NYU students set up a new encampment days after over 130 students and faculty were arrested at an encampment a week earlier.

Northeastern detains about 100 protesters and removes an encampment in the early morning hours. Students who produced valid Northeastern ID were released and will face disciplinary proceedings within the university.

Twenty-three people were arrested at an encampment at Indiana University.

April 28, 2024

Dozens of protesters are arrested at Virginia Tech.

UCLA increases security measures after physical altercations occur during a protest.

April 29, 2024

Columbia University says it cannot come to an agreement with protesters and sets a deadline for them to leave the encampment. Protesters defy the 2 p.m. deadline to disperse set by the university. Columbia then begins to suspend students who refuse to leave the encampment.

Protesters and police clash at the University of Texas at Austin.

April 30, 2024

Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy Hamilton Hall at Columbia early in the day, hours after defying the order to disperse. Barricades are set up by protesters outside the occupied building.

In the evening, Columbia University invites the NYPD onto campus to take back control of Hamilton Hall and empty encampments.

Columbia asks the NYPD to remain on campus through at least May 17.

The NYPD later says it arrested 170 people at the City College of New York — about 20 blocks north of Columbia — and 122 people at Columbia.
Thirty-two of the people arrested at Columbia University were not affiliated with the school, while 80 people were affiliated, based on a preliminary background analysis by the NYPD.

Cal Poly Humboldt says it has cleared two campus buildings that had been occupied by protesters for over a week and arrests 25 people. They face a variety of charges including unlawful assembly, vandalism, conspiracy and assault of police officers.

Seventeen protesters are arrested at the University of Utah and an encampment is removed.

At least 82 protesters are arrested at Virginia Tech.

Northwestern University and Brown University become the first schools to reach deals with students to end encampments, agreeing to take steps toward divestment.

Police arrest 79 people at University of Texas at Austin with the Travis County Prosecutor’s Office saying it has received 65 cases for criminal trespassing.

In a press conference, Travis County Attorney Delia Garza criticizes the arrests and says they are putting a strain on the state’s criminal justice system and police response, warning that it could escalate matters when “people believe they are being prevented from exercising their right to participate in nonviolent protest.”

An American flag is briefly replaced with a Palestinian flag at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In the days afterward, hundreds of thousands of dollars are raised for the fraternity brothers who restore the American flag.

April 30-May 1

Overnight, pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash at UCLA leading to multiple arrests. The protests led to 15 injuries, including one hospitalization.

May 1, 2024

Thirty-four people are arrested at the University of Wisconsin-Madison while an encampment is emptied.

May 1, 2024 – May 2

UCLA invites Los Angeles police and California Highway Patrol officers in riot gear onto campus to disperse and arrest protesters.

At least 209 people are arrested after protesters resist orders to disperse. Another 300 protesters voluntarily left campus.

May 2, 2024

Ninety people are arrested at a protest at Dartmouth University.

The University of Minnesota strikes an agreement to end an encampment. Representatives of the student coalition will be given the opportunity to address the Board of Regents at its May 10 meeting over its call for a divestment, students will receive amnesty for their encampment, and the university will also explore an affiliation with Palestinian universities, hosting scholars at risk.

Portland, Oregon, police arrest at least 30 people in protests at Portland State University.

Students at Rutgers University in New Jersey agree to end their protest peacefully and the university says their request for a divestment is under review.

May 3, 2024

Student protesters at USC who were arrested for criminal trespassing on April 24 will be referred to the school’s disciplinary process.

New York University and The New School, also in Manhattan, authorize the NYPD to come onto campus and clear encampments, arresting 56 people in total.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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