Police clear pro-Palestine protesters from Amsterdam university

Police in action in the early hours of the morning. Photo: Eva Plevier ANP

Riot police were drafted in to end a demonstration by pro-Palestine campaigners at the Roeterseiland campus of the University of Amsterdam overnight, arresting 125 people who had refused to leave the location.

The tent camp had sprung up during the day, in an echo of similar protests in the US and UK. However, the police, public prosecution department and city council decided to break up the camp after the university asked the protesters several times to leave.

According to broadcaster NOS, riot police began moving in at around 3 am and the site was cleared by 4.30 am. Police used a digger to break through the barricades. 

NOS reporter Beau Heimensen said the area was strewn with people’s possessions, tents and bricks that had been dug up from the road. “There were also barricades made from pallets and bikes and a lot of food, which indicated they were planning to stay for some time,” he said. 

Police said earlier in the evening that they were massing at the location after reports of trouble and because the emergency services could not access the site.

Video footage also showed a group of around 10 masked men attacking the protesters, hitting some with pieces of wood and throwing fireworks. 

According to news agency ANP they were eventually chased off.  As yet, it is unclear who the assailants were. 

The demonstration began on Monday afternoon when the group began setting up tents and demanding that Amsterdam universities cut their ties with Israel. They also closed two bridges and the entrance to the campus next to the Nieuwe Prinsengracht.

Earlier in the evening, the university published a statement outlining its activities in Israel, as the students had demanded. The UvA said it operated student exchanges with the University of Tel Aviv, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University, but no exchanges are currently taking place because of the negative travel advice.

In addition, the university said, it works on eight European research projects that involve Israeli researchers or companies. 

Education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf issued a short statement on Tuesday morning saying he regretted the fact the police were forced to intervene.

“Universities are pre-eminent places for debate and dialogue,” he said. “You can express your unhappiness and your emotions, but do it in a way that is safe for everyone and that everyone feels safe.”

The first of the demonstrators have already been released from police custody.

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