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German police crackdown on student protests

Germany’s students, labeled ‘terrorist sympathizers’ for protesting against Israel’s war on Gaza, say their right to free speech is under attack.
News ID: 84595
Publish Date: 28May 2024 - 16:04

German police crackdown on student protestsTEHRAN (defapress) - Campus activism in Germany has stepped up in recent weeks as students, following their American counterparts, have established occupations or encampments on university grounds in Berlin, Munich, Cologne, and other cities. Organizers are calling for German universities, most of which are public, to support a ceasefire in Gaza, an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, an end to the repression of student activism, as well as further acknowledgment of Germany’s colonial history. 

While some protests have proceeded peacefully, others have been dispersed by police, sparking public debate about whether students have exceeded the limits of protected speech and protest in Germany, or whether authorities have infringed on those same rights to suppress antiwar activism.

On Wednesday, May 22, students occupied the department of social sciences at Berlin’s Humboldt University. They unfurled a banner designating the building the “Jabalia Institute”, the name of a refugee camp in Gaza, and renamed its library after Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian poet killed by an Israeli air strike in December.

Inside, students barricaded the main entrance and spray-painted the walls with slogans including “Killing civilians is not self-defense” and “Resistance is legitimate”.

The university’s administration permitted the students to stay until the following evening and engaged in negotiations with organizers in the building. But on Thursday, the university’s president, Julia von Blumenthal, told journalists that Berlin’s Social Democratic (SPD) senator for science, Ina Czyborra, and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) mayor Kai Wegner, had demanded that she end the discussions and order a police eviction.

Officers then evicted more than 150 people from the grounds and charged 25 with suspicion of committing criminal acts. One pro-Palestinian student said that police punched her head repeatedly and kicked her, sending her to hospital with a concussion. Ignacio Rosaslanda, a video journalist for the Berliner Zeitung who was covering the operation was beaten by an officer despite identifying himself and said he was denied access to medical treatment for several hours.

The occupation followed the eviction of an encampment at Berlin’s Free University on May 7, which was broken up by police after just a few hours without any attempt at dialogue, protesters say. 

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