One day after parts of Berlin’s Humboldt University were occupied by pro-Palestinian activists, the university ordered the evacuation – under pressure from the Senate. The order came from the very top, said the president, Julia von Blumenthal, in the evening. The police initially escorted out the people who wanted to leave the building voluntarily.

Locked and partly barricaded doors were forcibly opened by the police, said police spokeswoman Beate Ostertag. A little later, the police declared the evacuation complete. According to initial information from officials, there were around 150 activists in the building. 

The demonstrators had occupied the university rooms in protest against Israel and in support of the Palestinians. The occupiers of the group called Student Coalition Berlin accused Israel of “genocide” and “ongoing mass murders” in a statement. It’s about “unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

Among other things, they demand that Berlin universities work for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and put pressure on the German government. This should impose an arms embargo against Israel and end all military, financial and diplomatic aid to Israel. 

President von Blumenthal expresses regret

In view of the eviction, President von Blumenthal expressed her regret that no agreement had been reached. “I am not sure whether it would have been possible, but I had the impression that we had taken a good step with this dialogue,” she said after talks with the pro-Palestinian activists who had occupied the building.

“The order then came from the very top to end the occupation. I followed this order,” she said. By this she meant the governing mayor Kai Wegner (CDU), as she stated when asked. 

Blumenthal said of the conversations with the activists that it was possible, with a moderation in mutual respect, “to talk about things where we might even be able to come closer together and also to talk about what separates us.” It was also possible to listen to the suffering of the Palestinian students. Of course, she always had the suffering of Jewish students in mind.

Heated atmosphere

In the evening, the mood at the university was heated, as a dpa reporter observed. Banners were hanging on the building, including one with the words “Free Palestine”. In the courtyard behind a fence, several dozen occupiers were standing and sitting, some of them masked with Palestinian scarves. They chanted “Viva Palestine” and “Yallah Intifada”.

Intifada refers to a series of attacks and terrorist attacks by Palestinians in Israel and is also interpreted as a call to violence. According to the activist spokeswoman, around 100 occupiers spent the night at the institute. The university tolerated the occupation until 6 p.m.

In the afternoon, Governing Mayor Wegner declared on Platform lawless spaces for anti-Semites and terror sympathizers”.  

Criticism from the police union

Criticism also came from the police union (GdP). “The autonomy of teaching applies, and universities in particular should be seen as a place for exchange and discussion,” said the regional association’s spokesman, Benjamin Jendro. But that is not a basis for legitimation to move outside the democratic framework, shout anti-Semitic and inhumane slogans, hold up anti-constitutional posters and commit property damage. 

The conflict in the Middle East has now reached German universities. There are repeated protests against Israel’s actions in the Gaza war and student actions to show solidarity with the Palestinians. An occupation at the Free University of Berlin a few weeks ago was broken up by the police. 

After the Hamas massacre with more than 1,200 deaths in Israel on October 7, more than 35,000 Palestinians died in the Gaza war that followed, according to the Hamas-controlled health authority, although the number, which is difficult to independently verify, does not distinguish between civilians and fighters.

16 arrests in Oxford

In the English university city of Oxford, police arrested 16 people during a protest. According to a BBC report, it was said to have been a sit-in by pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Officers went to a place at the university in the morning, the police said. It was previously reported that demonstrators had gained access to a private office in one of the buildings.