French police peacefully remove pro-Palestinian students occupying a university building in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French police on Friday peacefully removed dozens of students from the prestigious Sciences Po university who had gathered in support of Palestinians, echoing similar encampments and solidarity demonstrations across the United States.

The intervention came after police dislodged students at 23 French campuses on Thursday because of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, according to the prime minister's office.

Students at the central Sciences Po campus in Paris waved Palestinian flags and chanted slogans in support of residents of Gaza, as Israel continues its offensive following the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack that triggered the Israeli-Hamas war.

The main building at Sciences Po — whose official name is the Paris Institute of Political Studies and counts President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal among its many famous alumni — had been occupied since Thursday evening. The university administration had closed the main buildings and moved classes online.

Students chanting “Set Gaza free, set Palestine free” held a protest later Friday in front of the Pantheon monument, near the elite Sorbonne University, to call for an end to Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Similar protests by small groups of students were held in recent days at campuses in Lille in the north, Reims in Champagne country and Lyon in the southeast.

Attal's office said police had been asked to remove students from 23 sites on French campuses on Thursday and “all were evacuated within a few hours.”

A police presence will be maintained near Sciences Po to prevent any further blockades, it said in a statement.

The protesters said they want an investigation committee to examine the university’s economic ties to Israel to ensure they are not violating international law.

The school said administrator Jean Bassères met overnight and Friday morning with students occupying the site to try to find a solution to allow exams to take place. Failing to find a compromise, Bassères asked police to intervene.

Describing it as a “difficult decision,” the school said it “regrets that multiple efforts at dialogue did not allow this to be avoided.”

Last week, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators faced each other in a standoff in the street outside Sciences Po. Riot police stepped in to separate the groups. The protest ended peacefully after pro-Palestinian students agreed to leave. The school agreed to suspend disciplinary proceedings against protesting students and to organize a town hall over the issue.

France has Europe's largest Jewish population and western Europe's largest Muslim population, and often sees tensions and protests linked to unrest in the Middle East.