The police have started clearing the parts of the Humboldt University (HU) in Berlin occupied by pro-Palestinian activists. Locked and partly barricaded doors were forcibly opened by the police, a police spokeswoman said on Thursday evening. At the same time, the police accompanied the people who voluntarily left the building outside and established their identities. She couldn’t say how many people were still in the building and there was no information about anyone injured. 

Shouts like “HU – shame on you” could be heard; according to a dpa reporter, the mood was heated. At 6 p.m. the deadline until which the university management wanted to tolerate the occupation of rooms had passed. On Thursday afternoon, university president Julia von Blumenthal had a non-public discussion with scientists and occupiers. Negotiations with the occupiers then continued. Von Blumenthal also spoke to the police several times.

Police and demonstrators stood in front of the occupied Institute of Social Sciences on Thursday. Banners hung on the building, including one with the words “Free Palestine”. In the courtyard behind a fence, several dozen occupiers stood and sat, 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 squatters stayed overnight in the institute. The university tolerates the occupation until Thursday at 6 p.m., as university spokeswoman Christiane Rosenbach said. She couldn’t say what the next steps would be. “It’s a dynamic situation,” she said.

The CDU criticized the toleration because it could be misunderstood as an encouragement for further crimes, said Burkard Dregger, domestic policy spokesman for the CDU parliamentary group. “There is no place for hate and anti-Semitism in Berlin and at our universities. We will not allow errant activists to abuse our research institutions as a stage.”

The SPD parliamentary group called for “an end to criminal acts and damage to property”. “Occupations must not lead to long-term situations; that makes them more difficult for the police to deal with. (…) Dialogue about the Middle East conflict is easier to establish without illegal actions.”

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,” emphasized spokesman Benjamin Jendro. But that is not a basis for legitimation for moving outside the democratic framework, shouting anti-Semitic and inhumane slogans, holding up anti-constitutional posters and committing property damage.

The demonstrators occupied the rooms on Wednesday in protest against Israel and in support of the Palestinians. According to police, around 300 people demonstrated in front of the university. During the protests, 23 pro-Palestinian activists were briefly arrested to determine their identities. There were 18 men and 5 women, the police announced on Thursday. 25 criminal investigations were initiated, including for the use of license plates of unconstitutional organizations, damage to property and resistance to the police.

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 from Israel 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.

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.


Note: This article was updated after the clearance began.