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Former US official Josh Paul cancels talk at Dartmouth College after anti-war protesters arrested

Former State Department official who resigned over Gaza cancels talk after witnessing peaceful students face riot police on Ivy League campus
Police and protesters on the Dartmouth College green in Hanover, New Hampshire on Wednesday evening (X/@Jeff Sharlet)

Josh Paul, the former US official who resigned over the Gaza war, has cancelled a talk at Dartmouth College after 90 anti-war protesters were arrested on Wednesday at an encampment erected on campus.

The demonstration, organised in solidarity with protests at other US universities where more than a thousand people have been arrested in the past two weeks, was reportedly set to be the first large-scale encampment on a New Hampshire college to protest Israel's assault on Gaza.

About two hours into the protest, the college paper reported that New Hampshire state troopers, state police, including riot police, and local police were present as arrests began and tents were removed.

Paul, who was scheduled to participate in a panel discussion on Thursday, said he watched "a peaceful group of students, faced off by a line of riot police" from his hotel across the road.

"I have seen a police snatch squad break into the encampment and grab students and faculty one-by-one, and haul them off, as the riot police close the line behind them," he wrote.

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Among the 90 detained were Dartmouth professors and students, including two student reporters for The Dartmouth.

Local police said they made the arrests after the college's security advised "that no encampment or tents would be allowed" and charged those arrested with multiple offenses including criminal trespass and resisting arrest.

Paul said: "In these circumstances, it seems I gravely misjudged Dartmouth's commitment to free and constructive dialogue.

'It seems I gravely misjudged Dartmouth's commitment to free and constructive dialogue'

- Josh Paul, former US official

"It would not be appropriate for me to proceed with a public panel tomorrow on democratic dissent that lends a veneer of endorsement to the college's administration."

Paul came to prominence last October when he resigned from the State Department saying he could not support further US military assistance to Israel weeks into its assault on Gaza following the 7 October attacks. He had worked for 11 years in the department overseeing US arms transfers.

Since then, he has been speaking out in the media and giving talks on campuses across the US.

He is a member of an independent task force which submitted a body of evidence to the US government last month which is said to show that Israel is using American weapons in violation of a US national security memorandum that demands that US arms be used in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Under the memorandum, shorthanded as NSM-20, the Biden administration is due to report next week on Israel's use of US weapons in Gaza. 

Still in Hanover on Thursday, Paul said while he had cancelled his public talk, he would continue with private conversations and classroom sessions he had already planned.

Dartmouth College did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

College Provost David Kotz reportedly said in a widely circulated email on Wednesday that Dartmouth "prizes and defends the right of freedom of expression and dissent" while noting that the college's policies may place limitations on events which "interfere with core educational or admistrative functions".

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