Pro-Palestinian mobilization | Columbia University cancels its major graduation ceremony

(New York) Columbia University in New York, the epicenter of the pro-Palestinian movement on American campuses, announced Monday that it would give up its major graduation ceremony and favor modest and “festive” events, after three weeks of anger condemned by Joe Biden and repressed by the police.

The private and renowned establishment in northern Manhattan, where activists and students were dislodged on April 30 by hundreds of riot police, effectively canceled “the university’s major ceremony scheduled for May 15.”

These “graduations” in the United States represent the major institutional event in the country’s university and school life when, at the end of spring, students in traditional dress are honored by the teaching staff in front of their families. .

“All academic ceremonies scheduled on the South Lawn of the Morningside campus will be moved” from this huge, open, tree-lined site in northern Manhattan to a sports complex, Columbia said, which hosts 37,000 students and thousands of faculty and staff. .

This prestigious private university, with the budget of a large company financed by donors and financial investments, has been shaken since April 17 by demonstrations and the occupation of a lawn and a building.

Non-violent students

Before these non-violent pro-Palestinian activists and students were dislodged by the New York police at the written request of the president of Columbia, Minouche Shafik.

Their “village”, a camp of a few tents, was also dismantled last week, like in many universities from California to the east coast through the south and central United States.

Columbia will now favor smaller graduation ceremonies from May 10 to 16, because “our students emphasized that these smaller-scale ceremonies were the most important to them and their families,” Columbia insisted, adding : “These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community.”

Columbia has been a historic hotbed of student protest since the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s. The university was one of the first to mobilize at the start of Israel’s war against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Highly criticized by students and teachers for having called on the police – a manu militari intervention whose images have gone around the world – President Shafik, a renowned American economist of Egyptian origin, justified herself on Friday by “turmoil” and the “violent act” which, according to her, destabilized Columbia.

On the other side of the country, face-to-face classes will resume at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), after clashes between demonstrators and the police.

Arab-Muslims and Jews

Since Friday, the national movement for the Palestinian cause – which includes young Arab-Muslims, but also anti-Zionist left-wing Jews – has been seeking new life in the United States.

A number of camps were dismantled and thousands of people arrested, sometimes arrested and prosecuted for “trespassing”.

In addition to a settlement to the war in Gaza, young Americans are demanding that universities sever academic relations with Israel by withdrawing from economic investments.

In an America with millions of Jews and Muslims, students and activists denounce the almost unconditional support of the United States for its Israeli military and diplomatic ally engaged in a massive offensive in the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for the Hamas attack on October 7 on its soil.

“Biden’s Vietnam”

On Thursday, Democratic President Joe Biden, long silent on the demonstrations, insisted that “order must prevail”. “There is a right to demonstrate, not a right to cause chaos,” said the 81-year-old leader, who faces former Republican President Donald Trump, 77, in the November presidential election.

The demonstrations have reignited the debate in the United States, already tense, even violent since the Hamas attack, on freedom of expression, anti-Zionism and what constitutes anti-Semitism.

Donald Trump called the demonstrators “radical left freaks” who must “stop now,” with his party denouncing the “virus of anti-Semitism” on campuses.

For the left, the movement “could be Biden’s Vietnam”, warned independent senator Bernie Sanders who fears that he will lose “not only young people, but also a large part of the Democratic base”.


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