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Police powerless: Palestine activists occupy lecture hall in Berlin – University leadership stands by

Currently, a group called “Students for Free Palestine” is occupying a lecture hall in Dahlem. They accuse the leadership of Freie Universität of taking a “one-sided stance” in the Middle East conflict.

Activists from the “Students for Free Palestine” group have occupied a lecture hall at Freie Universität Berlin on Thursday morning. The group had announced this shortly before on Instagram, and the FU confirmed the occupation upon inquiry.

The lecture hall in question is Room 1a in the Rost- and Silberlaube in Dahlem. According to Tagesspiegel, the action began around 11:45 am. Originally, regular lectures at FU were planned for this Thursday in the large lecture hall.

Jewish students react in disbelief

During the occupation, there were also physical confrontations between pro-Palestinian activists and university students who tried to prevent the occupation by tearing down flyers and posters. Among the FU students, there were also several Jewish students who reacted in disbelief to the action.

“I don’t feel safe at my university when something like this is tolerated,” said one student to Tagesspiegel. In fact, the university leadership seemed to not be pushing for the dissolution of the occupation. The Berlin police were briefly on site with several patrol cars and informed students in front of the lecture hall that the decision on a possible eviction from the lecture hall lay with the board of Freie Universität. After about an hour, the approximately 25 officers withdrew.

The Palestine group had posted their first post on Instagram only on the night of Thursday. They were protesting “the one-sided stance of the university leadership on the violence in Israel/Palestine,” as stated in the English-language Instagram post. The university leadership had stifled the political discourse, suppressed political messages about Palestine, and avoided naming “the perpetrator of this catastrophe” – namely Israel.

Especially in the foyer in front of the occupied hall, there were repeated heated verbal conflicts between pro-Palestinian students and supporters of the occupation on one side and other FU students, including representatives of a Jewish student group. Posters were removed and reattached several times.

By Julius Geiler, Tilmann Warnecke

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