Who are the protesters?

It started on Monday, when students and staff put up tents on University of Amsterdam (UvA) premises. Sympathisers and other organisations joined them. As did alumni, who previously took part in the Maagdenhuis occupation in 2015. In addition, critics such as Minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf said, “professional rioters” joined the protests.

What do they want?

The protesters want to know what ties their university has with Israelian institutions and companies. They demand the UvA discontinue its collaboration with education institutions that support “genocide, apartheid and colonial violence”, as well as terminate its agreements with companies profiting from said violence. In Utrecht, similar demands were already made two months ago.

Will the universities be meeting these demands?

The demands are “virtually non-discussible”, says UvA Rector Magnificus Peter-Paul Verbeek to NOS. He’s fine with being open about partnerships, “but we don’t want to cut ties”. Utrecht University also does not wish to meet the demands, even after last week’s occupation.

What the University of Amsterdam will do, is organise discussions on the collaboration with companies and institutions in light of the war in Gaza, as was previously done on the topic of the fossil industry.

What kind of violence did the riot police use?

It hit people with truncheons, used a front loader to remove barricades and was also reported to have used police dogs. Some were impacted badly by this brute force, as the protesters call it.

What kind of violence did the protesters (and counter-protesters) use?

For one thing, fireworks and rocks were thrown at the police. One officer is said to have got ammonia in his eyes. On Monday, some men tried to provoke the protesters by throwing flares and fireworks at them. They were chased off with truncheon blows.

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Who’s actually authorised to call in the riot police?

If the protest takes place on the campus, the education institution has to report it. After that, the mayor, police and public prosecution service (the ‘triangle’) can decide to have the area cleared out.

How did the protests continue on Tuesday?

In Amsterdam, a building was occupied again on Tuesday, but the university didn’t report it this time, which meant the police didn’t intervene. At Utrecht University, a Pro-Palestinian protest started at the same time. This protest was ended by the riot police.

Is talking the solution?

So far, talks between administrators and protesters haven’t had any result. On Wednesday evening, new barricades were set up at the UvA, allegedly even including works of art. The university had the area cleared out. It took a long time for peace to return to the city.

Will the protests continue?

Monday (today), students and staff from all kinds of higher education institutions want to protest by way of a ‘walk-out’: at 11 AM they will stop what they’re doing and leave their respective buildings.

What damage did the occupations and protests cause?

The damage inflicted amounts to 1.5 million euros, the University of Amsterdam estimates. This doesn’t include damage to properties of the municipality, companies and private persons, so the amount may still go up. No amount has been mentioned in Utrecht yet.

 Who will pay for the damage?

Utrecht University threatened to send the bill to the occupiers if they didn’t leave the place in good order. The UvA is looking into “whether and how” the damage can be recovered from the protesters.

Is this kind of damage recoverable?

That remains to be seen. In 2015, almost 700,000 euros worth of damage was caused during the occupation of the Maagdenhuis in Amsterdam. In the end, the insurance paid part of this. Finding out who was responsible was considered to be too time-consuming and costly, as well as not conducive to the atmosphere within the academic community.

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How are Jewish students and staff reacting?

Het Parool featured an opinion piece by more than a hundred Jewish students and staff members. They feel unsafe in the face of slogans such as ‘Globalize the intifada’: during the first and second intifada, thousands of Israeli citizens were killed in terrorist attacks. The protests go beyond “legitimate criticism of the Israeli state”, they feel.

What do other people at the UvA think?

Due to the police violence, the Central Student Council has withdrawn its confidence in the UvA board. This makes it tricky to discuss things within the participation bodies. Many staff members are also reported to be shocked about the acts of the board and the use of police violence. But there are plenty of people that disagree. In a column, Professor Han van der Maas writes he supports the board. He thinks the occupiers were simply looking for an excuse to stick it to the UvA. Other staff members feel it’s strange that the board would have to negotiate with masked students.

How is Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf reacting?

He was horrified to watch the images of the protests, the minister said in television talk show Op1. “Vandalism, intimidation, threats, throwing stones… these aren’t things that even remotely belong at a university. This has to be a place where everyone feels safe.” He was happy the University of Amsterdam filed a report and the police intervened. “Because this simply won’t do.” Which is not to say one can’t criticise Israel, he added. But he’s touched by his talks with Jewish students who say they’re afraid of going to university.

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What ties do the higher education institutions have with Israeli institutions?

That’s not clear for all of them. The UvA published a list of eight collaborations. One of these focuses on explosives detection, although it’s said not to be a military project. Erasmus University Rotterdam also disclosed partnerships in the run-up to a protest that has been announced to take place this Thursday. The University of Groningen has done the same.

The Royal Academy of Art in the Hague is reported to have terminated an exchange programme with an Israeli institution at the insistence of students, but few students were actually opting for it anyway. The problem was said to be that the art academy students in Israel were mending uniforms for the Israeli army following the attack by Hamas.

How do other universities see these protests?

Jouke de Vries acted as a spokesperson for Universities of the Netherlands on the current affairs TV programme Buitenhof. They are working on a joint protocol: it’s not permitted to spend the night at a university and there will be no negotiating with masked protesters (as was the case at the UvA).

What’s with the tents?

Last week’s actions emulated the fierce protests at American universities, where students have also set up tent camps. Putting up tents at protests isn’t uncommon. It was also done by the Occupy movement, for example.

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