Virginia Police Are Under Fire for Cracking Down on College Protests

Virginia Police Are Under Fire for Cracking Down on College Protests

People are angry that Virginia police violently put down a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Virginia. Some commenters said the response was even worse than the police response to the notorious white nationalist gathering in Charlottesville in 2017.

The Associated Press reported that police nabbed 25 protesters during a fight at the university in Charlottesville. This is the latest incident in a series of student protests against Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

On Tuesday, UVA students started their protest on a lawn outside the school church. Late Friday, protesters set up tents on campus, and on Saturday, video from local news stations showed police in riot gear lined up on the university.

Officers with helmets and shields started to clear out the camp on Saturday afternoon. Protesters were sprayed with chemicals that hurt their eyes and pushed to the ground and pulled by their arms in videos shared on social media.

In a message to the school community, University President Jim Ryan said that when Tim Longo, the head of the university police department, went up to the students and “reminded them once again of their university policy violations and pleaded for a peaceful resolution,” the students ignored him. Ryan said that the university has “long-standing rules against setting up tents without a permit.”

Ryan said “when UPD’s attempts to resolve the situation were met with physical confrontation and attempted assault, it became necessary to rely on assistance from the Virginia State Police.”

Guards “declared an unlawful assembly, issued no-trespass orders to those who refused to disperse, and arrested those who continued to refuse dispersal,” he said.

Ryan admitted that he knew some people would not agree with his choice to call the cops. He also said that the “entire episode was upsetting, frightening, sad,” and “an aberration.”

The students who were protesting said that the cops had opened fire on a peaceful gathering.

Someone “brought these weapons to a peaceful encampment,” the UVA Encampment for Gaza account wrote on X (which used to be Twitter) next to a picture of a cop holding an assault rifle. “They won.” They beat us up. They beat us up badly.”

They wrote that when white nationalists and neo-Nazis marched on the university grounds in 2017, the police did not react the same way.

There were dozens of riot police at a small camp for unity in Gaza, the post’s caption said. “In 2017, hundreds of racists and neo-Nazis gathered on the UVA campus for a deadly event called “Unite the Right.” Heather Heyer was killed there.” Militant antifascists were the only people who stood up to Nazis. Now, the UVA administration is sending riot cops to stop peaceful protests against genocide.

Someone drove into counter-protesters who were out in the streets to condemn the white nationalist gathering, killing Heyer and hurting 19 others.

Others also used social media to say that cops were wrong to treat student protesters worse than people who were at the rally in 2017.

The crackdown at UVA on Saturday happened at a time when students have been protesting on college campuses across the country since April 18, when more than 100 protesters were arrested at Columbia University.

Students have set up tent cities to demand that their schools not do business with Israel or companies that they say are making money off of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which came after Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7.

There were about 1,200 deaths and about 250 prisoners taken by militants. The AP quotes the local health minister as saying that Israel has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since then. About two-thirds of them were women and children.

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