After Pro-Palestine demonstrations, Spanish university removes student tents (includes video story)

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For several months, college campuses across the United States have been making headlines following a nationwide flare-up of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Thousands of students have been arrested or suspended for protest-related activities like setting up encampments or using bullhorns to communicate. 

Universities across Florida have seen their share of protests. Students at University of Florida, University of South Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of North Florida and Florida International University have all hosted pro-Palestinian protests, some of which have included run-ins with police. There have been shutdowns, arrests and law enforcement has used tear gas to disperse the crowds. And there have been harsh repercussions for protesting on campus.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, a historic city in southern Spain faces a similar reality.

The University of Seville is a top-20 Spanish public university nestled in the country’s Andalusia region. Despite its baroque architecture, student life mirrors that of modern American campuses in its varied extracurriculars, study abroad opportunities, and most recently, a politically active student body. 

The 600-year-old main campus has become a hub for members of PalestinUS, the university’s Palestine-Seville solidarity group, to display their support for the end of the war in Gaza, for the refugees who have lost their homes after the attacks, and to criticize the university’s ties to Israeli academic institutions. Since May 13, students had held daily protests and parleys from a tent encampment on the school’s front lawn granted to supporters by Vice Chancellor Miguel Ángel Castro. 

The initial encampment location was hidden behind the university, out of public view. Dissatisfied with their initial placement, PalestinUS members approached faculty and successfully acquired a prominent spot on the university’s front lawn. The college’s initial response starkly contrasts that of many university and government officials in Florida’s university system. 

On May 8, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis attended a press conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville to criticize the pro-Palestine demonstrations and encampments taking place at colleges around the country. This discussion was spurred by the arrests of nine UF students and three more at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Despite the university’s early support, tensions have continued to escalate between PalestinUS and the school’s administrative team. Protestors are frustrated that the university is only temporarily cutting ties with Israel-supporting institutions and still maintaining relationships with corporations like Santander, Spain’s leading banking group that has been criticized for financing Israeli tech and war efforts. 

“They look at us and lie straight to our faces,” said Oscar, a student in the PalestinUS organization. “They say they support Palestine, but they only do so to a certain extent, given that practically no measures have been done to change the real situation.”

In response to the University of Seville’s alleged inaction, the solidarity group organized a rally on June 11 and occupied parts of the Philology department before being forcibly removed by local police called in by the school’s vice chancellor, Miguel Ángel Castro. Social media footage of the eviction shows students blocking off entryways using furniture and being tackled to the ground, some even suffering injuries. 

The vice chancellor published an official statement in which he criticized and condemned the actions of these students after they entered, and set up barricades, in the dean’s office of the Philology department. For this reason, the vice chancellor of the institution asked the Government Delegation of Spain to identify the students and to evict and dismantle the camp established in the main entrance of the university.

In response to Castro’s statement, the students published a petition in which they demand the resignation of the vice chancellor for what they described as “having crossed all the red lines of authoritarianism and repression and having embarrassed the university before the world.”

The campus’ front lawn, previously allocated for encampments, has since been occupied by local police forces and closed off to PalestinUS. Students and local community members have taken to protesting outside the school’s gates, maintaining their demands for the university to cut all ties with Israel and its supporters.

“There is still a lot of work to be done,” emphasized a student representative of PalestinUS (who asked us not to disclose her name, due to security concerns.) “We are not satisfied at all.” 

The organization’s demands remain firm, and the efforts of these students show no signs of ceasing. PalestinUS will convene next on Monday, June 17 at 8 p.m., in collaboration with the organization ‘Andalucia con Palestina’, for a walking demonstration in Seville’s historic Plaza Nueva.

Despite all of the protests and efforts from college students and professors, not only across Florida and the United States, but all over the world, the war in Gaza continues and it does not seem likely that the two sides will find a peaceful resolution in the near future.

This story was written by a team of Lee Caplin School students who traveled to Seville, Spain as part of the FIU-CARTA Communication & Media-Summer 2024 program.

Jacqueline Pecker is an Honors College student at FIU majoring in Digital Communication and Media. She employs her skills in TV production, video editing, writing, public speaking, and the arts in her current position as a social media coordinator and writing tutor for Palm Beach State College. Pecker aspires to work as a multimedia specialist at a media and entertainment company and is making the most of her college experience by seeking various hands-on, media-related opportunities. 

Carla Mendez is a sophomore studying digital communications and media with a minor in political science. Following graduation, she wishes to become a political journalist and work in the news. 

Isabel Rivera is a junior majoring in Digital Journalism with two minors in Art and English. Her interest in culture, the arts, and storytelling has led her to pursue careers in such topics in both journalism and publishing. Isabel’s work can be found in the Miami Herald, Miami New Times, Miami Times, Caplin News, Artburst Miami and PantherNOW. She currently works as a managing editor at Caplin News.

Bautista Samperi is a junior at Florida International University pursuing a degree in Digital Broadcasting. He is passionate about journalism and sports. He has worked in Telemundo Deportes as a freelance sports content creator and his goal is to work in sports media.