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03/05/24 | 10:50 pm

French police evacuate pro-Palestinian students from Sciences Po after overnight sit-in

Police in Paris entered France’s prestigious Sciences Po university on Friday and removed student activists who had occupied its buildings overnight in protest against Israel’s conduct in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

A Reuters witness saw police go into the buildings and take out many of the 70-odd pro-Palestinian protesters inside. Unlike on some college campuses across the United States, the French protests have been peaceful and there were no signs of violence as the students were brought out of the buildings.

The university was closed for the day on Friday, with a heavy police presence around its main building.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s office said student protesters had been evacuated from 23 institutions of higher education around the country on Thursday, adding in a statement: “In contrast to what we see abroad, namely across the Atlantic, no permanent protest camp (…) has been established in France.”

Sciences Po has become the epicentre of French student protests over the war and academic ties with Israel, which have spread across France but have remained much smaller in scale than those seen in the United States.

“There is a level of anger and bafflement about the situation, about the deafening silence of the institutions on what has been going on (in Gaza) since October,” said Clement Petitjean, an American studies professor at Sorbonne University.

“There is a level of anger and dissatisfaction that had been there for a while and (the Gaza war) was the spark that caused this huge fire that right now political elites don’t know how to extinguish.”

Sciences Po’s director Jean Basseres on Thursday rejected demands by protesters to review its relations with Israeli universities, prompting protesters to stand their ground.

Jack, a Sciences Po student who declined to give his surname, said he was one of around 70 students who spent Thursday night occupying one of the university’s main buildings in central Paris.

He said protesters had declined an ultimatum by university officials to clear large parts of the building and restrict their movement to a defined smaller area.

A Sciences Po spokesperson said some of the its satellite campuses in Reims, Le Havre and Poitiers were also affected by protests.

Sciences Po Lyon, an unaffiliated university in France’s third largest city, was also blocked by protesting students on Friday, as well as the Lille school of journalism, images broadcast by French news channels showed.

Petitjean attributed the smaller scope of the French protests compared to those in the U.S. to factors including a lower degree of economic ties between universities and Israeli entities and less outspoken support from academic staff.


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