Police Break up Pro-Palestinian Camp at the University of Michigan

Dozens of tents were in place as part of a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (AP)
Dozens of tents were in place as part of a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (AP)
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Police Break up Pro-Palestinian Camp at the University of Michigan

Dozens of tents were in place as part of a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (AP)
Dozens of tents were in place as part of a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Thursday, May 2, 2024. (AP)

Police broke up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Michigan before dawn Tuesday, citing a threat to public safety and coming less than a week after demonstrators stepped up pressure by placing fake body bags on the lawn of a school official.

Officers wearing helmets with face shields cleared the Diag, known for decades as a historic site for campus protests. Video posted online showed police at times using what appeared to be an irritant to spray people, who were forced to retreat.

The encampment was set up April 22, near the end of the school year and just before families began arriving for spring commencement. Posters taunting President Santa Ono and other officials were also displayed.

After the camp was cleared, nearby buildings including the undergraduate and graduate libraries were closed and police turned away students who showed up to study.

Ono said in a statement that the encampment had become a threat to safety, with overloaded power sources and open flames. Organizers, he added, had refused to comply with requests to make changes following an inspection by a fire marshal.

“The disregard for safety directives was only the latest in a series of troubling events centered on an encampment that has always violated the rules that govern the Diag — especially the rules that ensure the space is available to everyone,” Ono said.

Protesters have demanded that the school’s endowment stop investing in companies with ties to Israel. But the university insists it has no direct investments and less than $15 million placed with funds that might include companies in Israel. That’s less than 0.1% of the total endowment.

“There’s nothing to talk about. That issue is settled,” Sarah Hubbard, chair of the Board of Regents, said last week.

A group of 30 protesters showed up at Hubbard's house on May 15 and placed stuffed, red-stained sheets on her lawn to resemble body bags. They banged a drum and chanted slogans over a bullhorn.

People wearing face coverings also posted demands at the doors of other board members.

“This conduct is where our failure to address antisemitism leads literally — literally — to the front door of my home,” board member Mark Bernstein, a Detroit-area lawyer, said at a Regents meeting last Thursday. “Who’s next? When and where will this end? As a Jew, I know the answer to these questions because our experience is full of tragedies that we are at grave risk of repeating. Enough is enough.”

Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to press colleges to cut financial ties with Israel. Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall, but demonstrations spread quickly following an April 18 police crackdown on an encampment at Columbia University. Arrests at campuses have surpassed the 3,000 mark nationwide.

Drexel University in Philadelphia on Monday threatened to clear an encampment, with the campus on lockdown, classes being held virtually and police monitoring the demonstration.

Many Drexel employees were told to work from home. President John Fry said late Monday that the encampment had disrupted campus life and “cannot be allowed to remain in place.”



Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
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Iran Presidential Hopefuls Debate Economy Ahead of Election

Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters
Presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf speaks during a campaign event in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

The six candidates vying to succeed ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash, focused on revitalizing Iran's sanctions-hit economy in their first debate ahead of next week's election.

The contenders -- five conservatives and a sole reformer -- faced off in a four-hour live debate, vowing to address the financial challenges affecting the country's 85 million people.

Originally slated for 2025, the election was moved forward after Raisi's death on May 19 in a helicopter crash in northern Iran.

Long before the June 28 election, Iran had been grappling with mounting economic pressures, including international sanctions and soaring inflation.

"We will strengthen the economy so that the government can pay salaries according to inflation and maintain their purchasing power," conservative presidential hopeful Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said.

Ghalibaf, Iran's parliament speaker, also pledged to work towards removing crippling US sanctions reimposed after then US president Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran's economy grew by 5.7 percent in the year to March 2024, with authorities targeting a further eight percent growth this year, driven by hydrocarbon exports.

The sole reformist candidate, Massoud Pezeshkian, said he would seek to build regional and global relations to achieve this growth.

He also called for easing internet restrictions in the country where Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and X are among the social media platforms banned.

Reformists, whose political influence has waned in the years since the 1979 revolution, have fallen in behind Pezeshkian after other moderate hopefuls were barred from standing.

Ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, however, said Iran did not need to repair its relations with the West.

He took aim at Trump, saying his policy of "maximum pressure" against Iran had "failed miserably".

- 'Maximum pressure' -

In the absence of opinion polls, Ghalibaf, Jalili and Pezeshkian are seen as the frontrunners for Iran's second highest-ranking job.

Ultimate authority in the state is wielded by the supreme leader rather the president with 85-year-old Ali Khamenei holding the post for 35 years.

Incumbent Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said during the debate he would seek to lower inflation following a "political leadership style similar to that of Martyr Raisi."

Raisi easily won Iran's 2021 election in which no reformist or moderate figures were allowed to run. Backed by Khamenei he had been tipped to possibly replace the supreme leader.

Iran’s relations with the West continued to suffer, particularly following the outbreak of the October 7 Gaza war.

Tehran's support for the Palestinian armed group Hamas, coupled with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program have hastened the decline.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only cleric in the running, blamed international sanctions for "blocking the economy" and "making financial transactions impossible".

Tehran's conservative mayor, Alireza Zakani, said the US sanctions were "cruel" but were not the main problem behind Iran's economic hardship.

"We should emphasize the economic independence of the country, de-dollarize the economy and rely on our own national currency," he said.