Richmond Police Disperse Pro-Palestinian Protest at VCU

Pro-Palestinian protesters clash with police at VCU, leading to arrests and demands for university action on Israel-Gaza conflict.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Richmond Police Disperse Pro-Palestinian Protest at VCU, Arresting Demonstrators

Richmond Police Disperse Pro-Palestinian Protest at VCU, Arresting Demonstrators

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered on the lawn outside the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University's (VCU) Monroe Park campus in Richmond, Virginia. The demonstrators set up tents and established what they called a "Liberation Zone" to demand an immediate end to Israel's offensive in Gaza.

Around 8:30 PM, VCU Police in riot gear declared the protest an unlawful assembly and moved in to break apart the protesters' line. Witnesses reported that police used some sort of chemical agent to disperse the crowd, with some protesters seen tossing water bottles at officers. Multiple arrests were made as police forced protesters to the ground and bound their hands with zip ties.

The protest was led by VCU student Sereen Haddad, who said the group was taking cues from similar demonstrations at other college campuses across the U.S. in recent days. Haddad outlined the group's demands, which included disclosure of any university investments in Israel or related companies, divestment from those companies, protection of pro-Palestinian speech on campus, and a university declaration calling for a ceasefire and end to the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The protesters said they would remain on the lawn until their demands were met.

Why this matters: The clash at VCU is part of a broader wave of pro-Palestinian protests and crackdowns on college campuses nationwide amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict. The protests have sparked debates over the line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, as well as the role of universities in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Both the Richmond Police Department and VCU Police have not responded to inquiries regarding the monitoring of the protests as of the time of reporting. VCU had issued alerts to the campus community about the protest earlier in the day. In a statement, the university said it is "committed to supporting the rights of our community members to freely express their views in a civil manner while maintaining a safe environment and normal campus operations."

Key Takeaways

  • Pro-Palestinian protesters set up "Liberation Zone" at VCU, demanding end to Gaza offensive.
  • VCU police declared protest unlawful, used chemical agents and made arrests to disperse crowd.
  • Protesters demanded divestment from Israel, protection of pro-Palestinian speech, and end to occupation.
  • Clash part of broader wave of pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses amid Israel-Gaza conflict.
  • VCU committed to supporting free expression while maintaining safety and campus operations.