Pro-Palestinian Activists in US South Face Increased Repression on College Campuses and in Public Spaces amid Gaza Conflict

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Student protests against the Israeli war on Gaza have surged throughout the United States, resulting in over 2,000 arrests and police crackdowns on campuses. These protests have been fueled by demands for universities to divest from companies complicit in Israeli abuses against Palestinians. While much attention has been given to elite Ivy League institutions, students in the US South are also organizing for Palestine.

In New Orleans, protests have erupted on university campuses and city streets. On April 28, protesters established an encampment in Jackson Square, demanding the city divest from Israel. This marked the first instance of the encampment movement expanding beyond universities in New Orleans.

The protesters, a mix of local artists, builders, and service workers, made similar calls for divestment as the student movement. Despite facing police efforts to dismantle the protest, the encampment persisted. However, in the early hours of May 1, over 100 state troopers dismantled the campus encampment at Tulane University, resulting in the arrest of 14 students.

The police response at Tulane was characterized by its militarization, with officers in riot gear using force to disband the protesters. Despite these challenges, pro-Palestinian sentiment remains strong in New Orleans, particularly among Black and lower-income communities. However, students from racial minorities and lower-income backgrounds often bear the brunt of police actions and university sanctions.

While the nationwide wave of pro-Palestinian protests has faced opposition, the desire for change and justice for Palestine remains steadfast. As protests continue to challenge the status quo, the movement for a liberated Palestine shows no signs of fading.

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