Pro-Palestinian protests spread as hundreds arrested at Emory University, Emerson College and elsewhere across the U.S. Here's what's happening.

The University of Southern California is canceling its main graduation commencement ceremony.

Police officers clashed with protesters — and were accused of deploying tear gas — at Emory University in Atlanta after demonstrators set up tents on Thursday morning as part of a nationwide pro-Palestinian movement seen across college campuses.

This happened hours after officers in Boston cleared an encampment at Emerson College and arrested more than 100 people. On Wednesday, 93 people were arrested at the University of Southern California’s campus and security concerns have resulted in the school canceling its main commencement ceremony.

Universities across the U.S. are experiencing a growing number of students walking out of class or gathering to set up encampments on campus to protest against Israel’s war on Gaza. The most recent wave of these protests emerged on the campus of Columbia University in New York City last week and has since spread to schools across the country.

Here’s a closer look at what's happening and why.

Georgia State Patrol officers detain a protester on the campus of Emory University during an pro-Palestinian demonstration Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Georgia State Patrol officers detain a protester at Emory University on April 25. (Mike Stewart/AP)

Things hit a boiling point at Columbia last Thursday when over 100 people, including the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, were arrested at a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus. Columbia president Minouche Shafik had asked the NYPD to help clear the crowd, which had begun amassing the day prior. The university took things a step further Monday night, announcing a hybrid schedule for the remainder of the school semester at its main campus in Manhattan.

The situation snowballed this week, with protests springing up at more than a dozen campuses, many also resulting in widespread arrests.

Columbia also emerged as a flashpoint on the national political stage. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who had visited Columbia and met with Shafik on Wednesday afternoon, said during a press conference that school officials had lost control of the situation and called for Shafik to step down.

"This is dangerous," Johnson said. "We respect free speech, we respect diversity of ideas, but there is a way to do that in a lawful manner, and that's not what this is."

Police move in to arrest pro-Palestinian supporters who were blocking the road after the Emerson College Palestinian protest camp was cleared by police in Boston on April 25
Over 100 people were arrested at Emerson College on April 25. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images)

Student protesters have been calling for their universities to divest — i.e., cut business ties with Israel or any companies that are aiding its military campaign in Gaza that the Hamas-run Health Ministry said has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians.

In addition to divestment, pro-Palestinian protesters are calling for their universities to take a number of other actions in response to the ongoing war.

Read more about student demands here.

Emory University: Students filmed and photographed Georgia State Patrol officers pinning protesters to the ground and escorting others away after clashing on campus. Emory's student-run newspaper, the Emory Wheel, reported that tear gas was used, but it could not confirm with police.

Emerson College: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators want the college, located in Boston, to support “Palestinian liberation” and had set up tents in an alley off Boylston Street on Monday. The school canceled classes on Thursday after 108 protesters were arrested.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Students gathered to protest MIT having research ties with the Israeli military.

Tufts University: On Tuesday, a small group of students started to set up encampments on campus in support of Palestinians.

University of Texas at Austin: Hundreds of students gathered to protest in support of Palestinians. University officers, and Texas state troopers were called to the scene and arrested dozens of people who refused to leave the area.

University of Minnesota: Nine students were arrested hours after they started an encampment on campus.

New York University: Protests at New York University in Manhattan turned chaotic Monday night as police tried to disperse the growing crowd at Gould Plaza at the school’s request. Police said they arrested about 150 people, including NYU students and faculty, who refused to disperse, though police said a final tally had not yet been completed.

Yale University: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators reunited for protests again on Tuesday, just a day after at least 45 protesters, who’d staged an encampment at Beinecke Plaza on campus since Friday night, were arrested Monday morning on trespassing charges.

California State Polytechnic University: The Northern California university's campus was closed through Wednesday after protesters took over a building on campus.

University of California, Berkeley: Demonstrators set up what they call a “free Palestine encampment” in Sproul Plaza, one of the campus’s central areas.

University of Michigan: An encampment of about 20 tents was set up on the main quadrangle Monday, prompting the school to boost its security on campus, NBC News reported.

Harvard University: The Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee was suspended and threatened with expulsion if the group didn’t “cease all organizational activities for the remainder of the Spring 2024 term,” according to the Harvard Crimson.

University of Southern California: Hundreds of protesters gathered on campus Sunday in support of the school’s class of 2024 valedictorian, Asna Tabassum. Officials had told Tabassum earlier this month that she was barred from speaking at this year’s graduation ceremony, citing safety concerns due to her pro-Palestinian social media posts. USC announced Thursday it would be canceling its main commencement ceremony, one day after 93 demonstrators were arrested.

Mounted police work to contain demonstrators protesting the war in Gaza at the University of Texas at Austin on April 24, 2024 in Austin, Texas.
Mounted police and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Austin, Texas, on April 24. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The White House said Tuesday that President Biden is “of course aware” of the demonstrations that have roiled university campuses. White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One that the administration is “monitoring these situations closely.”

On Monday, President Biden condemned reports of antisemitism by protesters on campus and told reporters, "I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

In addition to the White House, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, New York Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have expressed concern for the safety of Jewish students and spoken out against antisemitism.

New England Patriots owner and Columbia graduate Robert Kraft said in a statement Monday he was "not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken."