Global Economy

Students at prestigious Paris university occupy campus building in pro-Palestinian protest

Students in Paris inspired by Gaza solidarity encampments at campuses in the United States blocked access to a campus building at a prestigious French university Friday, prompting administrators to move all classes online. The pro-Palestinian protest at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, known as Sciences Po, came two days after police broke up a separate demonstration at one of the university’s amphitheatres.
On Friday, scores of protesters occupied a central campus building and dozens of others blocked its entrance with trash cans, wooden platforms and a bicycle. Protesters gathered at the building’s windows chanted slogans and hung placards reading “We are all Palestinians”, in defiance of administrators who students say called the police on their peers two days earlier.
Later Friday, pro-Israeli protesters arrived to face off with the pro-Palestinian demonstrators outside the entrance of the famous school, which counts President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal among its many famous alumni.

Some of the pro-Israeli demonstrators carried photos of people held hostage by Hamas in Gaza and called for their release.

Riot police with shields stepped in to separate the opposing groups who together numbered about 200 people.

The Gaza war is sharply divisive in France, which has the largest populations of Muslims and Jews in western Europe. France initially sought to ban pro-Palestinian demonstrations after Hamas’ surprise October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the war. Antisemitism has surged. On Wednesday evening, more than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters occupied a Sciences Po amphitheater. Most agreed to leave after discussions with management but a small group of students remained. They were removed by police later that night, according to French media reports. The university administration closed all university buildings and moved classes online Friday. It said in a statement it “strongly condemns these student actions which prevent the proper functioning of the institution and penalise Sciences Po students, teachers and employees”.

The statement said about 60 protesters were inside the occupied building and that administrators were meeting with a student delegation “to try to find a way out of this situation through dialogue”.

Louise, a protester, said the students’ actions were inspired by similar demonstrations at New York’s Columbia University and other US campuses.

“But our solidarity remains first and foremost with the Palestinian people,” she said. She spoke on condition that only her first name be used over concerns of repercussions.

Students protesting the Israel-Hamas war have been digging in at Columbia University, one of a number of demonstrations roiling campuses from California to Connecticut.

Hundreds of students and even some professors have been arrested across the US, sometimes amid struggles with police.


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