Police dismantle pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University in Chicago

Chicago police personnel keep watch while crews disassemble the pro-Palestinian encampment in the quad at DePaul University's Lincoln Park campus in Chicago, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

By TERESA CRAWFORD Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Police began dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment early Thursday at DePaul University in Chicago, hours after the school’s president told students to leave the area or face arrest.

Officers and workers in yellow vests cleared out tents at the student encampment as front-loaders removed the camping equipment.

Across the street from where the encampment was spread across a grassy expanse of DePaul’s campus known as “The Quad,” a few dozen protesters stood along a sidewalk in front of a service station, clapping their hands in unison as an apparent protest leader paced and spoke into a bullhorn.

All the protesters at the encampment “voluntarily left” the area when police arrived early Thursday, said Jon Hein, chief of patrol for the Chicago Police Department.

“There were no confrontations and there was no resistance,” he said at a news briefing.

Hein said two people were arrested outside of the encampment “for obstruction of traffic.” One of those arrested is a current DePaul student and the other a former student, DePaul President Robert Manuel said in a statement.

The move to clear the campus comes less than a week after the school’s president said public safety was at risk. The university on Saturday said it had reached an “impasse” with the school’s protesters, leaving the future of their encampment unclear. Most of DePaul’s commencement ceremonies will be held the June 15-16 weekend.

In a statement, Manuel and Provost Salma Ghanem said they believed that students intended to protest peacefully, but “the responses to the encampment have inadvertently created public safety issues that put our community at risk.”

Efforts to resolve the differences with DePaul Divestment Coalition over the past 17 days were unsuccessful, Manuel said in a statement sent to students, faculty and staff Thursday morning.

“I understand that the last 17 days have been stressful for many, not only within our campus, but also for those who live and work in our neighboring community,” Manuel said later Thursday in a statement. “We are saddened that the situation came to the point where law enforcement intervention was necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all — both within and outside the encampment.”

Students at many college campuses this spring set up similar encampments, calling for their schools to cut ties with Israel and businesses that support it, to protest lsrael’s actions in the war in Gaza.

Separately, 47 people were arrested at University of California, Irvine on Wednesday, university spokesperson Tom Vasich said in an email Thursday evening. The school previously said 50 people had been arrested.

A few were arrested for trespassing, but a majority were arrested for failure to disperse after a direct police order, Vasich said.

Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a statement Wednesday saying he was planning to allow the peaceful encampment to remain on campus even though it violated university policies, but the school called in police after a small group barricaded themselves inside a campus lecture hall, supported by a large group of community members rallying outside.

He said the group transformed what had been a manageable situation into one that required police response and demanded to oversee many elements of university operations.

“Most importantly, their assault on the academic freedom rights of our faculty and the free speech rights of faculty and students was appalling,” Gillman said in the statement.

Also Wednesday, 11 members of a group protesting at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who did not vacate the area despite repeated warnings were arrested for trespassing, the university said in a statement. Those arrested included three students and eight people who are not affiliated with the university.

“The University of Tennessee respects individual’s rights to free speech and free expression and is committed to managing the campus for all,” the university said in the statement. “We will continue to be guided by the law and university policy, neutral of viewpoint.”

An independent journalist on Thursday confirmed his Wednesday arrest at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque as authorities removed encampments and arrested seven people, including two students.

Bryant Furlow, a frequent contributor to nonprofit news outlet New Mexico In Depth said in a statement that he was arrested along with wife and photographer Tara Armijo-Prewitt. In the statement released by New Mexico In Depth, Furlow said he and Armijo-Prewitt were charged with criminal trespass and wrongful use of public property and detained for 12 hours before release.

“We at all times followed instructions we received from police and stayed behind the yellow police tape,” Furlow said. “We were arrested while photographing the operation and shortly after asking an NMSP (New Mexico State Police) officer for his badge number and name. As I was being arrested, I said I was a member of the press repeatedly and loudly.”

At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the school’s Board of Regents held a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, a day after protesters showed up at the homes of some board members.

Sarah Hubbard, chair of the university’s governing board, said tents and red-stained sheets intended to resemble body bags with corpses were left on her lawn.

“This conduct is where our failure to address antisemitism leads literally — literally — to the front door of my home,” said board member Mark Bernstein. “When and where will this end? As a Jew, I know the answer to these questions because our experience is full of tragedies that we are at grave risk of repeating. Enough is enough.”

Protesters have been allowed to maintain an encampment on campus. They want the university to get rid of investments in companies linked to Israel, though school officials insist there are no direct investments, only a relatively small amount of endowment money in funds that might invest there.

The student-led DePaul Divestment Coalition, who are calling on the university to divest from Israel, set up the encampment April 30. The group alleged university officials walked away from talks and tried to force students into signing an agreement, according to a student statement late Saturday.

Henna Ayesh, a Palestinian student who’s a member of the coalition, criticized the police removal of the encampment as “shameful” in a statement sent Thursday by the group.

“It is shameful that DePaul chose violence rather than allowing students the right to protest our tuition money funding a genocide that is directly killing and displacing our families,” Ayesh said.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 80 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the U.S. More than 2,960 people have been arrested on the campuses of 60 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.


Associated Press reporter Christopher L. Keller contributed from Albuquerque, New Mexico