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Amidst clampdown, US student protesters chant: Don’t scare us, get off our campus!

By Harsh Thakor* 
Police in the entire USA have reportedly pounded on the students engaging in protests in solidarity with Gaza. Displaying relentless courage,  student protesters on campuses such as the University of Texas-Austin and the University of Southern California battled to the last inch. Scenes were reminiscent of protests during Vietnam war. This happened even as President Biden approved a bill that would provide USD 26 billion to Israel.
The European Union, meanwhile, has backed a UN call for an investigation into the over 300 killed Palestinians found in mass graves lying below the ruins of two hospitals. The protests coincided with continuing Israeli airstrikes on in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, leading to several deaths, including children.
Students at University of Texas-Austin withstood ultra-right wing Texas Governor Greg Abbot, who called in State Troopers, some mounted on horses, pouncing on protesters and making multiple arrests. Student protesters relentlessly defied, chanting “You don’t scare us!” and “Get off our campus!”
On the morning of April 24, Columbia student organizers made important announcements to those participating in the week-long protest, the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Butler Lawn. The previous night, Columbia administration threatened to bring in the National Guard to sweep the encampment. Many recalled the Kent State massacre in 1970 of four students protesting the US war in Vietnam by the Ohio National Guard. 
The students announced to the entire encampment that “we won a huge concession -- we have it in writing that we are here for 48 hours and we will not be swept; we will not be moved!”
Taking the cue, other campuses across the country and around the world planted their own encampments in solidarity with Gaza at universities such as Harvard and Brown. On April 24, students Sciences Po in Paris planted their own encampment in solidarity with Gaza. Protesters also experienced police action at the University of Southern California, where arrests are sweeping as in Los Angeles to clear the encampment.

Solidarity messages 

Students across the globe issued messages of solidarity with the US student protesters. The Arab and Maghreb Youth Student Front Against Normalization and in Support of Peoples’ Causes called for a “global youth student battle in support of Palestinian resistance and all solidarity forces with it."
It started, “What happened at Columbia University in the United States today is the best evidence of what we say, as after six days of sit-ins inside the campus, many other American universities like the University of California witnessed student movements supporting Palestine, shaking the throne of the entity and pushing the Biden administration to ruthlessly suppress protests supporting the Palestinian people and demanding an end to the genocide in Gaza.” 
The Student Front advocated  a mobilization of all Arab and Maghreb youth students to “to intensify field movements in support of the Palestinian cause and to stop the genocidal war in steadfast Palestine, strengthening the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and protesting in front of American embassies and their symbols.”
The International People’s Assembly (IPA) also issued a statement denouncing the “brutal repression and mass arrests of students peacefully protesting their administrations’ investments in the Zionist entity and demanding an end to all academic partnerships and cooperation.” 
“We call on all progressive and revolutionary forces around the world to join in solidarity with these students and the people of Palestine resisting on the frontlines,” the IPA stated.

Mass grave

After the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, mass graves of hundreds of people, among them children, medical staff and patients of the hospital, have been discovered. Some of the people had been executed and buried naked with their hands tied. Colonel Yamen Abu Suleiman, Director of Civil Defense in Khan Younis stated that “there were signs of field executions. We do not know if they were buried alive or executed.”
“I am sick to the bone. I want to throw up,” said physician and activist Mads Gilbert of the scenes in a TV interview shortly following the discovery of the mass graves. The fact that Israel continues its violence against Palestinians in Gaza unpunished is a sign of “massive moral collapse in Western governments,” Gilbert commented.
Representatives of the United Nations soon called for an independent investigation into the discovery of the bodies, asserting that they were aghast by the level of violence and destruction witnessed at Nasser, Al-Shifa, and other hospitals in Gaza. Health centers and hospitals, the UN and Gilbert stated, are meant to serve as sanctuaries and provide real protection during armed conflicts.
Throughout this war, the actions of the Israel Occupation Forces have infringed the principle of protection of healthcare in wars, it was pointed out. Hundreds of health workers are still being held hostage and imprisoned in Israeli prisons and concentration camps in the Negev desert. Others were killed, as well as members of their families, in bombing raids of targeted health centers, and some were released after long tenure of imprisonment and possible torture. 
---
*Freelance journalist

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