Hundreds of activists had come to the tent camp to demonstrate against Israeli attacks and the position adopted by the University of Amsterdam. They believe that in light of the destruction of Gaza, the University cannot remain neutral.

From noon, about three hundred students, lecturers and sympathisers gathered to protest on the Roeterseiland campus, and their ranks quickly swelled as others joined them. Pallets, fences and bricks were used to erect barricades.

Demands

The protestors demanded that the University publish a list of the Israeli educational institutions, organisations and companies it collaborates with, and also that it cut these ties with Israel.

In an official response on its website, the University stated that “The UvA will under no circumstances contribute to warfare in any way, and we also don’t intend to participate in exchanges in the field of military-related education.”

One of the eight research projects mentioned focuses on detecting explosives. The University writes that: “This project does not contribute to Israel’s military actions; it aims to prevent attacks, not to engage in military violence.”

The University sought assistance from the police. “Demonstrations are allowed at the UvA, within the context of the house rules”, the statement continues. “No face coverings, no blockades, no overnight stays, no atmosphere of intimidation, and education and research must be able to continue uninterrupted.”

Tentenkamp UvA 6 mei 2024 Sara Kerklaan Folia 1 (2)
The tent camp on the field of the Roeterseiland campus of the UvA. Image credit: Sara Kerklaan / Folia

Digger

Mayor Femke Halsema came to talk to the protesters in the evening, but was unable to convince them to leave the campus. Police also warned the protesters several times to leave before taking action.

At around 3 am, police used a digger to break through barricades erected by the pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Police wielding batons dispersed the protesters and reported that they had arrested some 125 people. While most put up little to no resistance, fireworks were also set off and stones were thrown. One officer sustained hearing damage. Local broadcaster AT5 reported that nearly all the protesters have since been released, although four remained in custody.

Earlier in the evening, a group of men attacked the protestors with flares and fireworks, before being chased off the campus.

Sad

Outgoing Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf posted on X that it was “sad to see that the police had to intervene to restore order at @UvA_Amsterdam”. “Universities are excellent places for debate and dialogue. Expressing dissatisfaction and emotions is allowed. But do so in a way that is safe and feels safe for everyone”, he said.

The protests are an echo of similar student protests in the United States, where long-term tent camps have been established at several universities and many hundreds of students have been arrested.

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