Amsterdam university cancels classes after violence erupted at a pro-Palestinian rally


THE HAGUE (AP) — The University of Amsterdam canceled classes Tuesday and shut buildings for two days after the latest pro-Palestinian demonstrations over the war in Gaza turned destructive.

Protests continued to simmer at several European universities where students faced off with academic authorities on whether relations with Israel should be broken off or drastically reduced, as the death toll continues to climb during the seven-month Israel-hamas war.

Overall, the protests in Europe have failed to reach the intensity of demonstrations at several U.S. universities.

In the Netherlands, the board at the nearly 400-year old University of Amsterdam issued a statement saying it could not guarantee the safety of anyone on campus after a group of masked agitators barricaded doors and spray painted slogans on the walls.

The mayhem on Monday followed a peaceful walkout of staff and students against the Israel-Hamas war and the university’s response to earlier protests.

“They (the university) called in the police after people wouldn’t remove their face coverings but the police came in balaclavas,” political science professor Enzo Rossio told The Associated Press, describing Monday’s events. He had returned to his office following the walkout, only for the building to be evacuated minutes later.

While standing outside the building, Rossio said he and his wife, who also works for the university, were repeatedly hit by police with batons.

Last week, police used a bulldozer to evict demonstrators from an encampment established by students who want the university to cut ties with Israel. The protest was one of many that sprung up around Europe following rallies across college campuses in the United States.

Smaller demonstrations have taken place against the war, both at the University of Amsterdam and at other Dutch universities. But last week’s protest grew into the thousands, with demonstrators chanting slogans including, “Palestine will be free!” and “Cops off campus!”

Riot police were called in multiple times to end the demonstrations, leading to aggressive confrontations. “I’ve never witnessed this kind of violence,” history student Marin Kuijt said in an interview. Kuijt said he had regularly attended climate change marches and joined the walkout on Monday to protest against the university and police response.

After the walkout, some students set up tents inside buildings, intending to occupy the spaces until the university listened to their demands. According to the University of Amsterdam, the peaceful protest was “hijacked by violent elements” who left behind “wanton destruction.”

Higher education institutions in the Netherlands published guidelines on Tuesday for student protests. They include a ban on remaining overnight, occupying buildings and wearing face coverings. Last week, the University of Amsterdam already announced it would not hold talks with any protester who refused to show their face.

In a statement, Amsterdam Student Encampment, which is organizing some of the demonstrations, said it was concerned about outside elections causing destruction, saying it “overshadowed” the protests. The group is calling for more demonstrations at the university in the coming days.

Smaller students actions were held in Belgium, Greece and Italy, among other EU nations.

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