French Riot Police Disperse 'Liberated Zone' at Sciences Po University

French riot police stormed Sciences Po University in Paris to end a "liberated zone" set up by anti-Israel students demanding a cut in ties with Israeli companies and universities. The university's main Paris site was closed due to the occupation of buildings by protesting students.

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Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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French Police Clear 'Liberated Zone' at Sciences Po Amid StudentProtests Over Israel-Palestine Conflict

French Police Clear 'Liberated Zone' at Sciences Po Amid StudentProtests Over Israel-Palestine Conflict

French riot police stormed the prestigious Sciences Po University in Paris on Friday, May 3, 2024, to end a "liberated zone" set up by anti-Israel students demanding a cut in ties with Israeli companies and universities over the Gaza offensive. The protests at Sciences Po, considered France's top political science school, have been ongoing, with dozens of pro-Palestinian students occupying university buildings.

The protests at Sciences Po reflect the deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict, which has far-reaching implications for global politics and international relations. The protests at Sciences Po reflect the deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict, which has far-reaching implications for global politics and international relations. The university's response to the students' demands will set a precedent for how institutions address complex geopolitical issues and balance academic freedom with social responsibility.

The protesters are furious over the Israel-Hamas war and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. A committee of pro-Palestinian students announced a "peaceful sit-in" at Sciences Po, with six students starting a hunger strike "in solidarity with Palestinian victims" in war-torn Gaza. The students are demanding an investigation into the university's partnerships with Israeli universities.

Sciences Po's acting administrator, Jean Basseres, refused the students' call for an investigation during a debate with students. The university's management announced that the main Paris site would be closed on Friday as a result of the occupation of buildings by protesting students. Basseres stated,"I clearly refused to set up a working group on our relations with Israeli universities and partner companies."

Higher Education Minister Sylvie Retailleau called on university heads to keep order, including by calling in the police if needed. The Paris regional authority's right-wing head, Valerie Pecresse, temporarily suspended funding to Sciences Po earlier in the week, condemning what she called "a minority of radicalised people calling for anti-Semitic hatred."

Why this matters: The protests at Sciences Po echo tense demonstrations at top US universities, with students outraged over the Israel-Hamas conflict and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. France is home to the world's largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, and it also has Europe's biggest Muslim community, making the issue particularly sensitive.

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, at least 34,596 people have been killed in the territory, mostly women and children, as a result of Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas. An AFP tally of Israeli official figures states that 1,170 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel. Israel also reports that 129 captives seized by militants during their attack remain in Gaza, with 34 of them dead.

The student protesters at Sciences Po remain committed to their cause, with one student, Hicham, stating, "The hunger strikes will continue until the university's board votes on holding an investigation into its partnerships with Israeli universities." As the protests continue, the university's management has asked staff to "continue to work from home."

The events at Sciences Po serve as a microcosm of the broader global debate on the Israel-Palestine conflict, highlighting the deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the issue, not only in France but also in other parts of the world. The situation continues to unfold, the university faces the challenge of addressing the students' demands while operating within a complex political and social environment.

Key Takeaways

  • French riot police stormed Sciences Po University to end a "liberated zone" set up by anti-Israel students.
  • Students demanded a cut in ties with Israeli companies and universities over the Gaza offensive.
  • The university's management refused to investigate partnerships with Israeli universities.
  • Higher Education Minister called on university heads to keep order, including calling in the police if needed.
  • Protests at Sciences Po reflect deep divisions and strong emotions surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.