A Week of Protests,

Police Brutality, and Solidarity at UvA

By Luna Lampikoski | News | May 13, 2024

Cover Illustration: Demonstrators raising their hands in peace as police pushes crowd away from forceful OMHP occupation eviction, 08-05-2024. Andrea Michel / The Amsterdammer

Reporter Luna Lampikoski interviews UvA student activists at the Oudemanhuispoort encampment and investigates police brutality at Palestinian solidarity protests.

On Wednesday, May 8 2024, students and staff from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) experienced brutal police violence during protests at the UvA’s Oudemanhuispoort campus and the Rokin area. Inspired by scenes across U.S. college campuses, student protestors created an encampment at the Roeterseiland campus on May 6 to stand in solidarity with Palestine and protest the UvA’s ties with Israel. The campers intended to remain on campus until the university complied with the following demands: to disclose their ties to Israeli institutions and companies, to cease all academic collaborations with Israel, and to divest from Israeli and international companies that fund or profit from the war in Gaza. The Roeterseiland encampment was disbanded through police force, resulting in the establishment of the Oudemanhuispoort encampment the following day. Students and staff alike share feelings of anger, fear, and disappointment towards the Executive Board (CvB) for their non-compliance with the demands and role in ordering violent police evictions.

“They [UvA] should allow a safe space for peaceful demonstration, and protect their students instead of attacking them,” states a 21-year-old political science student at the Oudemanhuispoort encampment. Another political science student expresses: “I think it [the university’s response to Israeli military action in Gaza] is shameful. I fear for Palestine and violence against students.”

Students occupied the Oudemanhuispoort campus on Tuesday, May 7, following a staff strike and solidarity protest earlier in the day. The staff strike and protest were called after the CvB ordered the removal of the peaceful Roeterseiland encampment at 3:00 am on May 7. “There is room for demonstrations at UvA, but staying overnight is not allowed, according to house rules,” the University stated. Dutch Scholars for Palestine (DSP) describes how “riot police violently arrested, beat and bulldozed over 150 students and staff.” Around 140 students and staff were arrested, with some protesters sustaining injuries and requiring hospital visits, as stated by speakers at the solidarity demonstration on Tuesday.

Police approaching the barricade from outside Oudemanhuispoort, 08.05.2024. Ming Zhang/The Amsterdammer

The CvB did not send out an eviction notice to the police on Tuesday at the Oudemanhuispoort encampment, which was allowed to stay overnight. The CvB stated that they wanted to engage in dialogue about the protest’s demands with representatives of the protest the following day. These discussions occurred Wednesday morning and afternoon but proved unfruitful. In a statement, DSP claims the CvB had entered the negotiations having already made the decision to evict the encampment.

Speaking about their experience at the Oudemanhuispoort encampment, an (anonymous) UvA student who had left the encampment to join supporters outside the barricade described the difference in mood at the encampment and the subsequent solidarity demonstration at Rokin, directly after the Dutch police’s violent eviction. They describe calm scenes of community and care at the encampment on Tuesday evening. There was lots of dancing and singing, as well as people watching Netflix together. The encampment was well organized, with food brought by supporters from the outside. People made sandwiches and shared them with fellow students. The encampment followed police orders to stay silent at night for the neighborhood’s residents. This atmosphere continued into the next morning, with more supporters joining outside of the encampment’s barriers and bringing supplies such as food, sanitary items, and water to campers. Staff members reportedly organized teach-in sessions so students could keep up with their studies while protesting.

A bulldozer from the police dumping the debris into the canal outside Oudemanhuispoort, after breaking through the barricade, 08.05.2024. Ming Zhang/The Amsterdammer


The student describes the shift in atmosphere when police received a notice of eviction from the CvB. Riot police came with a bulldozer and the AT (Arrestatie team), a specialized police unit which is a subgroup of the Special Intervention Service (DSI). The student describes the violence of the AT and the riot police as excessive, given the peaceful nature of the protest. Supporters outside the barricade formed a human chain to prevent the riot police from entering. The riot police hit them with batons, pushed them with their shields, and dragged people out of the way. The student witnessed several people injured and bleeding. A student was hit on the head by a police officer and fell to the ground with a visibly bleeding head, only to be grabbed by the officer in an attempt to drag them away.

Throughout these events, students and supporters were chanting “We are peaceful, what are you?” and “Stop attacking us.” Protesters claim that everything remained peaceful until the police began using excessive force. “They [UvA] are the ones that created the violence,” says a 23-year-old political science student.

Protestors then gathered at the Rokin metro station, outside of university grounds, to demonstrate in solidarity with the students who had been arrested and assaulted. The interviewed student emphasized how important remaining peaceful at the demonstration was to the protestors. While individual instances of throwing items towards the police occurred, organizers made it very clear over megaphones not to throw things or push and to remain peaceful in solidarity with what occurred at Oudemanhuispoort. AT and riot police began pushing, beating, and chasing students who were walking in unison and blocking buses with arrestees from leaving. Students continued to hold either both hands up or peace signs to demonstrate their peaceful intentions. “I was beaten more by police at the demonstration in Rokin than I was at the [Oudemanhuispoort] encampment,” states the student. The student declares that the crowd was pushed so hard by the AT that if anyone had fallen, they would have likely been trampled. “I was running for my life,” they said.

Protestors forming a human chain and chanting facing the police at Rokin station, who is blocking the way to the OMHP eviction scene, 08.05.2024. Andrea Michel/The Amsterdammer

Speakers at the protest highlighted that Palestinian solidarity is not about religion while emphasizing the difference between Judaism and Zionism. Dutch politicians, such as outgoing Prime Minister Rutte, have accused the protests of being anti-semitic and condemned the protesters for being inherently violent.

In response to Wednesday’s events, a DSP statement reads, “For three consecutive days, they [the Executive Board] have authorized extreme police violence towards their own staff and students, who were engaged in non-violent protest […] We underscore that the University of Amsterdam does not consist of its Board, it is students and staff who are the heart and soul of this university. Denying this fact has resulted in a severe breach and breaking of trust between the Board, and the staff and students who work for the university and give it its right to exist.”

On May 13, the Roeterseiland campus was occupied a second time with further police presence. Students maintain their demands for UvA to disclose, boycott, and divest from their ties to Israel. Following the encampment on May 6, UvA published a list of collaborations with Israeli organizations. As of May 13, the other demands have yet to be met. Additionally, a new demand has been made, published on the instagram of the Amsterdam encampment: amnesty for those arrested at the protests and encampments. Students have also expressed several other wishes for the university, such as apologies and acknowledgement for their role in soliciting police violence against students, as well as addressing misinformation about the previous encampments.

Police lined up, blocking the way to the OMHP after chasing the protesters away from Rokin station, 08.05.2024. Andrea Michel/The Amsterdammer

Luna Lampikoski is a university student in Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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