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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators arrested at Stanford University after occupying president’s office

STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Police arrested 13 people at Stanford University after pro-Palestinian demonstrators occupied the school president and provost’s offices early Wednesday, causing what officials described as “extensive” vandalism inside and outside the building.

The takeover began around dawn on the last day of spring classes at the university in California’s Silicon Valley, and ended three hours later. Some protesters barricaded themselves inside the building while others linked arms outside, The Stanford Daily reported. The group chanted “Palestine will be free, we will free Palestine.”

Demonstrators cheered in support of those being arrested as the detainees were escorted out of the building and loaded into law enforcement vehicles.

The student newspaper said one of its reporters was among those detained.

Protest camps have sprung up on university campuses across the U.S. and in Europe as students demand their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts.

Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which they describe as a genocide against the Palestinians. The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.

Stanford students who participated in Wednesday’s protest would be immediately suspended, and any seniors would not be allowed to graduate, university President Richard Saller and Provost Jenny Martinez said in a joint statement.

They said the university also removed a student encampment of Palestinian supporters on Wednesday, which had been set up on campus on April 25, citing public safety concerns and violations of school policies.

“The situation on campus has now crossed the line from peaceful protest to actions that threaten the safety of our community,” they said, adding that demonstrators had recently tried to occupy a different building.

One law enforcement officer was lightly injured when he was shoved by protesters interfering with a transport vehicle, university spokesperson Dee Mostofi wrote in an email to The Associated Press. Other campus activities were not affected, she said.

In addition to the damage indoors, the president and provost said there was extensive graffiti on the sandstone buildings and columns of the Main Quad. Video posted on social media showed police busting in a door. Other photos showed an office desk splattered with a red liquid.

An AP journalist on campus saw walls spray-painted political slogans calling for the destruction of the U.S. and Israel, as well as killing police.

“This graffiti conveys vile and hateful sentiments that we condemn in the strongest terms,” the president and provost said, adding that it remains unclear who graffitied the university.

Sarah Lebaron, a Stanford physics student, said she didn’t think Wednesday’s demonstration and graffiti were an effective way to protest the war in Gaza or question university endowments.

“I think the goal is to have Stanford divest from Israel. That is their stated goal. But I don’t see how these actions necessarily lead to that goal,” Lebaron said.

Columbia University, which was rocked by campus protests earlier this spring, agreed to take additional steps to make students feel secure on campus under a settlement reached with a Jewish student Tuesday.

The AP has recorded at least 86 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the U.S. More than 3,130 people have been arrested on the campuses of 65 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

Israel faces growing international criticism for its strategy of systematic destruction in Gaza, at a huge cost in civilian lives. Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in the besieged territory have killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians.

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Rodriguez reported from San Francisco. AP journalists John Antczak in Los Angeles and Christopher L. Keller in Albuquerque, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

By TERRY CHEA and OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ
Associated Press

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