Amnesty International USA condemns university response to campus protests News
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Amnesty International USA condemns university response to campus protests

Amnesty International USA issued a press release on Thursday, condemning university administrations and the police for obstructing and repressing largely peaceful protests against Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

This statement comes after various issues between protesting students, and school administrations and the police. In December of 2023, the US House Committee on Education opened a formal investigation into Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania over their response to rising levels of antisemitism.

In March, students sue MIT for alleged complicity in antisemitism on campus. On April 22, police, at the request of the University’s president, entered the campus of Columbia University to disperse a protest and conduct mass arrests of students. These are just a few of the many incidents documented over the last several months, including universities such as Cornell, Cooper Union, Boston University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Wellesley, Stanford, and UC Berkeley. According to the Washington Post, demonstrations involving students and faculty have resulted in more than 2,000 arrests.

The conflict in Israel has created serious concerns for the Jewish student community across the country. Hillel International research indicates four out of every five Jewish students say the situation in Israel and Gaza is affecting them. Two out of every three Jewish students are sad. Over half of Jewish students are scared. More than one in three Jewish students say they have needed to hide their Jewish identity.

This issue is not only restrained to university campuses. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in the first month following Hamas’s terror attack, “antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 316 percent compared to the same time last year.”

In April, students from Brown, Columbia, and Rutgers held a press conference, joined by leadership from Columbia/Barnard Hillel, Hillel International, American Jewish Committee (AJC), and UJA-Federation of New York, to demand more protection for Jewish students at these universities. Said Jillian Lederman, a Brown University student and the Executive Chair of Hillel International’s Israel Leadership Network, “We came to college to participate in vibrant, challenging, and equally-accessible learning environments. It is time for colleges and universities in the United States of America to decide whether they are still capable of meeting this description.” Ted Deutch, CEO of AJC, made his stance clear,

We will not accept conditions that are so fraught for Jewish students that they rightfully fear attending classes or going to the library on campus. And we will not accept the idea that university events – graduation ceremonies – should be canceled rather than taking action to ensure that these events go on.

Protests around the country have caused college administrations to reconsider their commencement proceedings.

Amnesty International ended their press release with the following statement from Paul O’Brien, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA

Administrations have a responsibility to address the documented incidents of antisemitic hate and discrimination by individual protesters, as well as violence, anti-Arab and Islamophobic hate from counter-protesters whenever they occur. However, the actions of the few should not be used to characterize the protests generally, be used as pretext to shut down legitimate and peaceful dissent, or as a justification to violate the right of students to peacefully assemble.

The day after Amnesty International’s press release, the ACLU of Indiana filed a lawsuit against Indiana University for First Amendment violations of student protesters.