NYU students suspended after two-day protest on Gaza

Dozens of students barricaded themselves in cafeteria, demanded scholarships for Gazans.

gaza protest berlin 248 88 ap (photo credit: AP)
gaza protest berlin 248 88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
Dozens of students at New York University have been suspended after a raucous two-day takeover of a school cafeteria intended to draw attention to a list of grievances that include the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Members of Take Baacck NYU, the group behind the demonstration, barricaded themselves inside the Kimmel student center on Wednesday night and enumerated demands that included the creation of 13 scholarships for Gazan students. The group also called on the university to donate "excess supplies and materials" to help rebuild the Islamic University of Gaza, which was damaged by air strikes during last month's IDF offensive against Hamas. "The people of Gaza, the people of Iraq, the people of Afghanistan, the workers at this university, and all the student brothers and sisters, we're here fighting for our freedom," declared one student, who spoke through a megaphone from a balcony overlooking Greenwich Village's Washington Square on Thursday. The last protesters left the building on Friday afternoon, apparently after agreeing to leave the cafeteria on promises from university officials to begin negotiations. University officials did not accede to any of the group's demands, which also included calls for student representation on the school's board of trustees and greater disclosure of budgets and endowment investments. Participants were suspended following repeated warnings that they were violating the 1 a.m. closing time of the student center, said NYU spokesman James Devitt. School officials had offered "to sit down and have a dialogue with the students if they left the cafeteria," he said in a statement. Scuffles broke out early Friday morning as hundreds of students gathered outside the student center banging drums and chanting in support of those inside. One person was arrested for disorderly conduct. Devitt said protesters broke a door lock and injured a security officer. It was not clear whether the university would seek criminal charges. Take Back NYU declared its action a success and called it "just a beginning to what is to come" in a message posted on its Web site. The protest came ahead of the March 1 start of Israeli Apartheid Week, a worldwide series of protests that is to include events in New York.