Protest on US campus: ‘Student arrest will be my last college memory’

  • By Brandon Drennan
  • BBC News

image source, Good pictures

image caption, Protesters gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles

As of January 2020, they are seniors in high school. Graduation has begun. But it was a deadly epidemic.

By mid-March, Covid had upended daily life and many students were forced to spend their final months of school at home. Proms were cancelled.

Four years later, those same students are now about to graduate from college. Once again, they face the same sourness that would normally be a festive event.

Pro-Palestinian protests have broken out on 130 college campuses across the United States, with organizers demanding that their universities sever ties to institutions linked to Israel.

They set up sprawling encampments in the middle of university grounds and defied multiple warnings to disperse, prompting police raids and more than 2,000 arrests.

Three seniors explain how they cope with this tumultuous end to their academic careers – for the second time.

‘Students dragged away by police are my last memories’

Madison Morris, 22, University of Texas

I had my last final exam the day the army came in. When I got to the campus, they were already there and shutting down the students.

The tension was very high. I have never been so close to the police before. It was scary.

After that day I didn’t really study for my exam – I couldn’t concentrate. I was only thinking of what I had just seen. I doubt I did as well in the exam as I would have liked.

image source, Madison Morris

It is something that will stay in my memory forever. They will be the memories of the final moments of college.

It’s hard to even be happy right now with all the negative things going on. I feel like I can’t really celebrate my accomplishments because I’m so overwhelmed.

Graduation is next week. I’ve been looking forward to it for the past four years because I never got a real one in high school. Due to covid, we had to wear masks and there was social distancing. It’s not the same.

I was really looking forward to a traditional graduation this year. I’m trying to make the most of my senior year and really take it all in, but it’s hard when things like this happen. Like Covid, honestly, it all feels super dystopian.

‘I will not be allowed to walk in graduation’

Craig Birkhead-Morton, 21, Yale University

I was one of the 48 students arrested on April 22. We awoke at camp at 6:30 a.m. as our security marshals warned us that we were being surrounded by the police. They said they were ready to get up and arrest us. I went to class that day. It’s a very difficult time – a new level of stress.

I have two final papers. I have an Arabic project. And I’m still behind with everything that’s going on.

Senior year is very important considering my family in all of this. They want to see me graduate. This was my main concern.

image source, Craig Birkhead-Morton

May not be allowed to walk in graduation. We may not receive our diplomas or final transcripts. For me, the transcript is important. I need it to matriculate into my accepted master’s program at Columbia.

Personally, I feel that all this knowledge I am gaining at Yale should go to a good cause. That’s why I felt the need to take a row about it. The situation in Palestine is unacceptable.

I remember the first week of March in my senior year of high school. We were sent home and things were done remotely.

We didn’t know that would be the end, but it was. No prom, no graduation. The pandemic was a major disruption, but so were the Black Lives Matter protests. It was an important part of the end of my high school experience and led me to get organized and where I am today.

Agitators are ruining student life.

Melissa Manesh, 21, University of Southern California

It should be a happy time and we will be students in the last few days of college. Now it has been taken over by the protesters. So much confusion going on. It’s frustrating.

Agitators are ruining student life. Libraries are not open when most people are trying to study for finals.

There are helicopters flying. Only two entrances to the campus are open, making some of us walk a long way. Protesters have also blocked a large area of ​​the campus, making it feel unsafe to walk.

video title, WATCH: See how Gaza protests spread across the US

As for Jewish students, I know many of us are afraid. They will yell at you. They will call you a genocidal supporter. We don’t want to see these protestors and their symbols so offensively. It increases the stress of studying. It’s hard not to think about it when it’s all happening right in front of you. It’s very distracting.

If you had told me that graduation would be cancelled, I would not have believed you. When we came to know that, we were all very surprised. It should have been one of the biggest moments of our academic careers – something we were all looking forward to – and now it’s gone.

I was also class of 2020 for high school and we didn’t have graduation then because of covid. It feels so similar, and it’s so sad and so sad. But now it feels so deep and so personal. Not every graduating senior in the world has missed their ceremony this time around. This is every senior who graduates from USC.

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