France's Response: Riot Police Deployed, Funding Cut Amid Campus Protests over Gaza

France’s Response: Riot Police Deployed, Funding Cut Amid Campus Protests over Gaza

PAIRS-As Israel continues to attack Gaza, tensions are growing between the French government and elite university students who, encouraged by their American counterparts, are organizing pro-Palestine demonstrations. Before riot police arrived on campus last week, students at the Sciences Po university in Paris took over several areas of the school and barricaded entrance to a building.

The Escalating unrest

Following the three-day blockade at the esteemed institution, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who is among the notable alumni of the university along with President Emmanuel Macron, declared on Saturday that his government “would not tolerate the actions of a dangerously acting minority trying to impose its rules and an ideology coming from North America”. 

Despite the possibility of police intervention, antiwar demonstrators from the esteemed Sorbonne University staged a demonstration on campus on Monday. They erected tents, shouted slogans, and waved the Palestinian flag. The Ile-de-France region’s president, Valerie Pecresse, has said that unless “serenity and security are restored in the school,” the territory would no longer sponsor Sciences Po Paris. This information is relevant to Paris.

Riot Police deployment

They demanded that their university sever its links with Israeli organizations and other companies they believe are involved in the conflict in Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of around 34,500 Palestinians, the most of them women and children. They also demanded a stop to Israel’s war. Shortly after the protest started, Jean Basseres, the school’s acting president, called for riot police, a significant step in France because police seldom visited colleges. 

Some students and professors felt that the president’s action went too far, even though no one was arrested. On Thursday, there was further protesting, including some overnight camping. A number of Middle Eastern universities, notably Tel Aviv University in Israel, are collaborators with Sciences Po, and several undergraduates and postgraduates participate in exchange programs in Israel.

Controversy surrounding funding cuts

Eliana*, a French American student who asked to remain anonymous for security concerns, thinks university administrators were under pressure from the French government to let security personnel inside. “A member of the administration received a call and was instructed to take all necessary steps to get us out of the university, as the government was applying pressure,” the woman recounted, during her first meeting with the management of the university during the takeover on Wednesday. She told , “My analysis is that the government didn’t want a Columbia University-style encampment here in France, they didn’t want to be faced with that image,” alluding to the US university’s demonstrations that have garnered international attention. Pro-Palestine demonstrators at Columbia, an Ivy League institution, and several other US colleges have attracted thousands of supporters. A number of people have been suspended from their courses, and hundreds have been detained.

Impact on academic community

“Sciences Po believed that calling the police on its own pupils was appropriate. Eliana stated, “We are completely disgusted by this decision, but we are also more determined to fight for what we want. Ziad Majed, a Middle East political expert and professor at the American institution of Paris, calls it “very symbolic” as Sciences Po Paris was the first institution in France to host a campus-wide rally for Palestine for many days. 

The French government regards Sciences Po as a hallowed institution that grooms the nation’s elites. Within this prestigious university, a counter-model has arisen, which the establishment finds extremely concerning, he said. He claimed that considering France’s stance on Israel and Palestine since October 7, when the historic conflict abruptly intensified, the decision to send in riot police is not surprising.

Paris Olympics 2024: Implications of Boycott debate

As tensions escalate over Israel’s actions in Gaza, French universities witness pro-Palestine demonstrations. Riot police intervene, sparking debates on academic freedom. Amid this, calls for boycotting Paris Olympics 2024 over France’s initial support for Israel raise concerns over international relations and human rights.

A number of prominent personalities were called by police on charges of encouraging “terrorism,” including journalist Sihame Assbague and Mathilde Panot, the head of the left-wing group La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), over remarks they had made following the Hamas assaults.



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