Protests at universities: Buschmann calls for objective debate

Status: 24.05.2024 12:12

Pro-Palestinian protests have also been taking place at German universities for weeks. In Berlin, parts of the Humboldt University were cleared by the police. Justice Minister Buschmann criticized the protests and took the lecturers to task.

In view of the pro-Palestinian protests at German universities, Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann has called for a debate on arguments and has called on lecturers to take responsibility. “There must be no threats, no insults, no approval of criminal acts,” he told the newspapers of the Funke Media Group. “Personally, I would like lecturers to encourage their students to present arguments. Especially at universities, the stronger argument should count – and not the louder shouting.”

Germany has a special responsibility towards Israel, the Minister of Justice stressed. The Palestinian terrorist organisation Hamas is responsible for the suffering in the Gaza Strip. Of course, those who do not agree with this attitude can also invoke freedom of expression. “The limit is reached when violence is used or incited, when personal rights are violated or symbols of terrorist organisations are used,” said Buschmann.

The FDP politician said that he found some of the side effects of the protests at universities particularly painful. “Because that’s where young people are supposed to resolve conflicts – and with rationally verifiable arguments. Not by shouting at others or threatening them with their fists.”

Humboldt University evacuated

There are repeated protests at German universities against Israel’s actions in the Gaza war and actions by students in solidarity with the Palestinians. On Thursday, the police ended the occupation of parts of Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU) by around 150 pro-Palestinian activists and cleared the university.

According to reports, around 320 people gathered there on Wednesday for an unregistered demonstration. Afterwards, some activists occupied rooms at the university.

Participants of the group called “Student Coalition Berlin” accused Israel of “genocide” and “ongoing mass murders” in a statement. They said they were talking about “unconditional solidarity with the Palestinian people.” Among other things, they demanded that Berlin universities work for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and put pressure on the German government. The government should impose an arms embargo on Israel and end all military, financial and diplomatic aid to Israel.

Forbidden symbols and slogans

According to the police, some activists displayed symbols of banned organizations and chanted banned slogans. According to news agencies, calls such as “Intifada Revolution, there is only one solution” or “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” were heard – a slogan that is understood as a call for the annihilation of Israel.

In connection with the protest, the Berlin police said they had initiated 25 criminal investigations. 169 people were also briefly arrested on Thursday evening in order to establish their identities, a spokeswoman said. There were six further “freedom-restricting measures” at a subsequent rally and six further reports.

HU President for Dialogue

The university administration had initially tolerated the protests. According to HU President Julia von Blumenthal, the evacuation took place in consultation with the Berlin Senate. She had previously held talks with the demonstrators in the afternoon. rbb she defended the toleration of the protests. “We were (…) in a dialogue in that situation, and from our point of view we needed a little more time to see whether we could bring this dialogue to a conclusion ourselves or not. (…) so we had to break off the attempt at dialogue.” The timing of the police deployment was ultimately decided “from above”.

The pro-Palestinian protest movements at universities in connection with the war in the Middle East are spreading internationally. At universities in the USA in particular, there have recently been clashes between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators as well as with the police.

In Germany, a few weeks ago, an occupation at the Free University of Berlin was broken up by the police. Protest camps and occupations of rooms also took place at other universities, for example in Frankfurt am Main, Bremen and Leipzig.

Justice Minister Buschmann defended police operations in this context in the newspapers of the Funke Media Group. “Universities are special places – but they are not outside the law. Demonstrations on university campuses are subject to the same rules as other demonstrations,” he said. “That is why it is of course right for the police to intervene when there are violations of the law.”

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