As pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses continue nationwide, the law enforcement response to the demonstrations has grown increasingly hostile. Militarized police have conducted mass arrests and used violent tactics against protesters, educators, and members of the media at largely peaceful encampments. At Columbia University, several New York Police Department officers brandished their guns during a sweep of a protester-occupied building, the Columbia Spectator reported. At Ohio State, per The Lantern, troopers on a nearby rooftop armed themselves with long-range firearms. At UCLA, the Daily Bruin and The Guardian reported, law enforcement used a lighter hand — when counterprotesters attacked a campus encampment, police were slow to mount a significant intervention. 

American students have a long tradition of political activism, which has at times led to their deaths. In 1970, police opened fire on a dormitory at Jackson State College in Mississippi, where Black students were protesting racial injustice, and killed two students. Just days before,, the National Guard killed four young people at Kent State University in Ohio after opening fire on a large protest against the Vietnam War. 

Those protests, and the deadly police reaction to them, altered how campuses responded to such demonstrations for decades, Angus Johnston, a historian of student activism, told USA TODAY. The responses to today’s protests could shape the future, too: The Marshall Project’s Maurice Chammah reports that local law enforcement’s response to students could influence voters in the 2024 elections. “In the coming months, we’ll see scrutiny of the harshest measures that have been used by police at these protests so far,” Chammah writes. He continues: “But it will be in elections of prosecutors, sheriffs and judges that voting this November could have a direct impact on the fate of campus protesters — and, by extension, the demands they are making.”

What to Know Today

Gun violence intervention workers are on the front lines of the effort to reduce shootings, but they’re often at risk of burning out due to a lack of organizational formality, coordination, and support. In Kalamazoo County, Michigan, a new professional certificate program created with street outreach workers hopes to address some of these needs. [NowKalamazoo

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach are suing the Biden administration over a new rule meant to reduce the number of guns sold without background checks. They announced the lawsuit at a gun club in Frisco, a Dallas suburb less than half an hour from the outlet mall where a shooter killed eight people last May. [KERA

After experiencing a surge in gun violence during the pandemic, Detroit last year recorded the fewest homicides since 1966 and a 16 percent drop in nonfatal shootings. The key to the city’s success? Officials credit investment in violence intervention, prioritizing community outreach for prosecutors, and changing how police respond to calls. [Vox

Evolv Technology says that its artificial intelligence-powered weapons detectors can instantly find guns and large knives, but are smart enough to ignore small objects like keys and cell phones. Critics say the company has made misleading claims about the efficacy of the product — and now Evolv is the subject of preliminary inquiries of federal regulators and lawsuits filed by shareholders and a high school student. [The Boston Globe

In 2022, Chicago police arrested Luis Gonzalez on an illegal firearm possession charge — for having a gun, Gonzalez said, that he acquired for protection after surviving a shooting outside his home. When he got out of jail, Gonzalez received support from a pilot program meant to address the needs of people on pretrial release; he credits it with helping him avoid “catching another [gun] case.” Now, criminal justice reformers are asking Illinois lawmakers to expand similar programs across the state. [Bolts]

Data Point

18 percent — the decline in homicides in Detroit in 2023 compared to the previous year. [Vox]