The Crackdown on Campus Protests is a Bipartisan Strategy to Repress Pro-Palestine Speech

The Progressive, May 1, 2024: Unlike apartheid-era South Africa, many universities aren’t even recognizing Israel’s human rights abuses. A wave of sit-ins and encampments have swept college and university campuses across the country. They are being led—as in past anti-war campus protests in 1968—by Columbia University in New York. The immediate demand by most of these student groups is that their institutions divest from companies supporting Israel’s war and occupation. Calls for more ethical investment policies and an end to the bombardment of Gaza, however, are unthinkable for many university administrators and Washington officials, and the pushback has been intense.

Divestment campaigns have been fixtures on college campuses for generations—they’ve called for withdrawing financial support from arms manufacturers, owners of sweatshops, union busters, and carbon polluters, among other industries. What this wave of activism most resembles, however, are the protests of the late 1970s and the 1980s over investments in corporations doing business in apartheid South Africa. Back then, student encampments were designed as “shantytowns” to reflect the squalor in which Black South Africans lived amid the affluent white minority.

During the South Africa protests, arrests were mostly of students who engaged in more confrontational tactics, like occupying administration buildings, blocking traffic, or other actions meant to provoke arrest. The shantytowns and other encampments, with a few notable exceptions, were allowed to stay for weeks or even months. That’s not the case today, when many student camps have been subjected to mass arrests and removal almost immediately. [source]