Sunak summons university leaders over protests

A spokesman for the prime minister said Sunak expected university leaders to take “robust action” in dealing with the protests…reports Asian Lite News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is to summon the leaders of universities following pro-Palestinian protests that have taken place at campuses across the country.

The meeting will take place this week to discuss antisemitism on campuses and ensuring Jewish students are safe, Sunak told Britain’s Cabinet on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the prime minister said Sunak expected university leaders to take “robust action” in dealing with the protests, The Evening Standard reported.

“Our university campuses should be places of rigorous debate, but they should also be tolerant places where people of all communities, particularly Jewish students at this time, are treated with respect,” the spokesman said.

The “right to free speech does not include the right to harass people or incite violence,” he added.

The summons comes after British students set up pro-Palestinian protest encampments at Oxford and Cambridge campuses on Monday, in a show of solidarity with their American peers.

Cambridge University said its priority was the “safety of all staff and students” and that it was committed to freedom of speech.

“We will not tolerate antisemitism, Islamophobia and any other form of racial or religious hatred, or other unlawful activity,” a spokesperson said.

Pro-Gaza demos spread across Europe

Meanwhile, German police on Tuesday broke up a protest by several hundred pro-Palestinian activists who had occupied a courtyard at Berlin’s Free University earlier in the day, the latest such action by authorities as protests that have roiled campuses in the US spread across Europe.

Some demonstrators have even called for a break in academic ties with Israel over the war in Gaza.

In Berlin, the protesters had put up about 20 tents and formed a human chain around them. Most had covered their faces with medical masks and draped keffiyeh scarves around their heads, shouting slogans such as “Viva, viva Palestina.”

Berlin police called on the students via loudspeakers to leave the campus. Police were seen carrying some students away as scuffles erupted between officers and protesters. Police also used pepper spray against some of the protesters.

In the eastern German city of Leipzig, about 50 pro-Palestinian protesters set up tents on campus of Leipzig University and occupied a lecture hall on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday, Dutch police broke up a similar pro-Palestinian demonstration camp at the University of Amsterdam. Police spokeswoman Sara Tillart said about 140 protesters were arrested, two of whom remain in custody on suspicion of committing public violence.

Amsterdam police said on the social media platform X that their action was “necessary to restore order” after protests turned violent. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Video aired by national broadcaster NOS shows police using a mechanical digger to push down barricades and officers with batons and shields moving in, beating some of the protesters and pulling down tents. Protesters had formed barricades from wooden pallets and bicycles, NOS reported.

In Austria, protesters camped out in about 20 tents set up in the main courtyard of the University of Vienna for a second day Tuesday. With police monitoring, protesters cordoned off the encampment, which is near a memorial for Austrian Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The University of Vienna and the main Austrian Union of Students distanced themselves from the protest. The union said “antisemitic groups were among the protest’s organizers,” which the protesters denied. Pro-Palestine protest camps have sprung up at about a dozen universities in Britain, including at Oxford and Cambridge, urging the institutions to fully disclose investments, cut academic ties with Israel and divest from businesses linked to the country.

In Finland, dozens of protesters from the Students for Palestine solidarity group set up an encampment outside the main building at the University of Helsinki, saying they would stay there until the university, which is Finland’s largest academic institution, cuts academic ties with Israeli universities.

In Denmark, students set up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Copenhagen, erecting about 45 tents outside the campus of the Faculty of Social Sciences. The university said students can protest but called on them to respect the rules on campus grounds.

In Italy, students at the University of Bologna, one of the world’s oldest universities, set up a tent encampment over the weekend to demand an end to the war in Gaza as Israel prepared an offensive in Rafah, despite pleas from its Western allies against it. Groups of students organized similar protests in Rome and Naples, which were largely peaceful.

In Spain, dozens of students have spent over a week at a pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of Valencia campus. Similar camps were set up Monday at the University of Barcelona and at the University of the Basque Country. A group representing students at Madrid’s public universities announced it would step up protests against the war in the coming days.

In Paris, student groups called for gatherings in solidarity with Palestinians later Tuesday.

On Friday, French police peacefully removed dozens of students from a building at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences Po, after they had gathered in support of Palestinians.

On Tuesday, students at the prestigious institution, which counts French Premier Gabriel Attal and President Emmanuel Macron among its alumni, were seen entering the campus unobstructed to take exams as police stood.


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