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U.S. university protests over the war in Gaza galvanize other demonstrations

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Protests over the Israel-Hamas war have spread well beyond the United States. Let's listen.

WILLEM MARX, BYLINE: I'm Willem Marx in London, where several universities have seen student encampments spring up over just the past week to protest the positions their institutions hold towards Israel. A handful have witnessed protests since the start of the Gaza conflict, but encampments are now appearing at several other universities around England.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win.

MARX: At the University of Warwick, some students set up an encampment last week demanding free speech remain protected, that the institution help rebuild Gaza's higher education sector and that the university break ties with companies doing business with Israel, says Fraser Amos from the group Warwick Stands With Palestine.

FRASER AMOS: The University of Warwick has some of the most partnerships of any U.K. universities with arms companies, and we've been campaigning for the last few months for our university to break these ties. An overwhelming majority of students voted in November for it to do so, and we've seen 27,000 Palestinians die since, and so we've been forced to take this action.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) Let us in. Let us in.

MARX: At Goldsmiths University, a group's occupied part of the library. Students had earlier disbanded a similar encampment after college authorities agreed to discuss their concerns, but talks made little progress, says Danna Liu MacRae from Goldsmiths for Palestine.

DANNA LIU MACRAE: They had made some commitments, which they've pulled out of with little explanation, so it made sense for us to put the pressure back on to hold them accountable.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: We are the people. We won't be silenced. Stop the bombing now.

MARX: The policing of these protests has so far been pretty peaceful, but as more encampments are established, the pressure on university leaders to take action of some kind could only increase.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, and I'm standing outside of Sciences Po university. That has been rocked by protests during the last week. Today, the university has proposed a discussion with students to try to calm things, and that's what's going on right now, but there are still many students protesting outside of this conference room where that debate is going on.

(CROSSTALK)

ISMAIL EL GATAA: It's good to have these debates, because we are in a school that all the time says that we have to debate politics, we have to discuss.

BEARDSLEY: That's 24-year-old Ismail El Gataa (ph), who took part in this student faculty conversation.

EL GATAA: And all ideas are legitimate, unless racism and antisemitism. That's not legitimate, of course.

BEARDSLEY: El Gataa says part of his family is Jewish. He says there are many Jewish students involved in the protests here.

EL GATAA: I am part of the movement. I feel super welcomed. I'm just like any other person.

BEARDSLEY: I point to the fact that many Jewish students in the U.S. say they feel unsafe.

EL GATAA: Unfortunately, what I've seen in the U.S. is that there is a lot of extremism. People have shown up with flags of Hezbollah, flags of Hamas. Here, we are all against those groups. We do not call for the support of a terrorist organization. However, the opposite must be true at the same time. We need to stand with the people of Gaza who are not responsible for what Hamas has done.

BEARDSLEY: After the conversation between students and administrators Thursday, Sciences Po has refused to cut ties with four Israeli universities. Students say those universities work with the Israeli army, so their demonstrations will continue.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Speaking Spanish).

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: I'm Eyder Peralta in Mexico City, and I'm on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. This is the country's largest and most important university, and this is the first day of an encampment to protest Israel's war in Gaza. Students have begun setting up tents right in front of the administration buildings here, and they say they will not leave the university's main square until Mexico breaks ties with Israel.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: The crowd was small. They chanted, "let's break ties, let's break ties with the state of Israel." And they spray-painted signs that read, long live Palestine.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPRAY PAINT CAN SPRAYING)

PERALTA: Alexa Carranza (ph), a junior studying geography, said she always thought of American college students as apathetic to global injustice.

ALEXA CARRANZA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: To see them wake up, she says, inspired her. Ana Jimenez (ph), who is 18, grew up in Guerrero, a region caught in the middle of a cartel war. She felt a kinship, she says, with the Palestinian kids surviving war.

ANA JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "We need global solidarity, she said. "We need an empathetic world." And young people, she says, can bring that change.

JIMENEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "When you're young," she says, "there is no other choice but to be a revolutionary."

INSKEEP: We were listening there to Willem Marx in London, Eleanor Beardsley in Paris and Eyder Peralta in Mexico City. 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.

Willem Marx
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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