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French students protest again after police break up pro-Palestinian demo

Sciences Po is one of the most prestigious universities in France
— Paris (AFP)

Students in Paris protested again Thursday after police broke up a pro-Palestinian solidarity demonstration the night before at one of France's most prestigious universities.

The protests come as Israel's bombardment of Gaza sparks a wave of anger across college campuses in the United States.

Students at Sciences Po have accused management of calling in police to break up a pro-Palestinian protest by dozens of students gathered on a central Paris campus on Wednesday night.

"The director has crossed a red line by deciding to send in the police," Ines Fontenelle, a member of the Student Union at Sciences Po, told AFP as 150 students gathered again Thursday.

"Management must take steps to restore a climate of trust."

Union spokeswoman Eleonore Schmitt said the students would continue to mobilise "despite repression".

The union earlier said the decision by university officials to call in the police was "both shocking and deeply worrying" and reflected "an unprecedented authoritarian turn".

On Wednesday evening, dozens of pro-Palestinian demonstrators occupied the amphitheatre outside one of the university's campuses in the French capital's 7th district.

In a statement to AFP, university officials said the demonstration added to "tensions" at Sciences Po.

After discussions with management, most of the protesters agreed to leave but "a small group of students" refused to do so and "it was decided that the police would evacuate the site," the statement said.

Sciences Po said it regretted that "numerous attempts" to have the students leave the premises peacefully had led nowhere.

Students had set up around 10 tents.

When members of law enforcement arrived, "50 students left on their own, 70 were evacuated calmly from 0:20 am" and the police "left at 1:30 am, with no incidents to report," the police said.

The protesters demanded that Sciences Po "cut its ties with universities and companies that are complicit in the genocide in Gaza" and "end the repression of pro-Palestinian voices on campus", according to witnesses.

- 'Refuses dialogue' -

The protest was organised by the Palestine Committee of Sciences Po.

In a statement on Thursday, the group said its activists had been "carried out of the school by more than 50 members of the security forces," adding that "around 100" police officers were "also waiting for them outside".

Sciences Po management "stubbornly refuses to engage in genuine dialogue", the group said.

The organisers have called for "a clear condemnation of Israel's actions by Sciences Po" and a commemorative event "in memory of the innocent people killed by Israel", among other demands.

Many top US universities have been rocked by protests in recent weeks, with some students furious over the Israel-Hamas war and ensuing humanitarian crisis in the besieged Palestinian territory of Gaza.

France is home to the world's largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States, as well as Europe's biggest Muslim community.

The war in Gaza began with an unprecedented attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas on Israel on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

In retaliation, Israel launched a military offensive that has killed at least 34,305 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.