German police clear pro-Palestinian camp at Berlin university

By Philipp Krach

BERLIN (Reuters) - German police cleared a pro-Palestinian protest camp on Tuesday at a courtyard of the Freie Universitaet Berlin, which had called for a stop to Israel's military operation in Gaza.

Some 100 people set up two dozen tents on the campus on Tuesday, joining a call by the so-called "Student Coalition Berlin" to occupy German universities.

Students from various Berlin universities joined the protest, carrying Palestinian flags and shouting slogans supporting Palestinians and denouncing Israel and Germany.

The student group demanded that criminal charges be dropped against students and others who had shown solidarity with Palestinians on campuses, and for the universities to publicly oppose planned reforms to Berlin's senate that would enable the expulsion of students on political grounds.

They also urged banning police from the campus and reinstating academics and staff members of German universities and research institutes, who were expelled or defunded because of their political stance.

Freie Universität Berlin said the protesters tried to enter university rooms and lecture halls aiming to occupy them, and that the university filed criminal complaints and suspended lectures in several buildings.

"This kind of protest is not dialogue oriented. An occupation of university property is not acceptable. We welcome academic debate and dialogue – but not in this form," said Guenter Ziegler, president of Freie Universität Berlin.

Student protests over the war and academic ties with Israel have begun to spread across Europe but have remained much smaller in scale than those seen in the United States.

The students are protesting Israel's offensive in Gaza, launched after a Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people. Israel's reprisals have killed over 34,000 in the enclave, according to Gaza health authorities.

More than 25 police vehicles surrounded the camp at Freie Universitaet Berlin and police said they cleared the area due to a university management request as the protest was not registered.

"There were isolated cases of deprivation of liberty for incitement to hatred and trespassing Freie Universitaet Berlin," Berlin police wrote in a post on social media platform X, adding that those who would not comply with the orders would be taken by police and later reported.

(Reporting by Philipp Krach and Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Bernadette Baum)