68 arrested at Pro-Palestinian protest outside the Art Institute of Chicago, police say

ByMichelle Gallardo and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Saturday, May 4, 2024
68 arrested at Pro-Palestinian protest at Art Institute of Chicago
Dozens of protesters, at least 68, were arrested at a Pro-Palestinian encampment Saturday at the Art Institute of Chicago in downtown, police said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Pro-Palestinian protests are continuing across the country.

Dozens of arrests were carried out on the grounds of the Art Institute Saturday afternoon, just hours after a small pro-Palestinian encampment was set up in the museum's north garden, the Chicago Police Department said. At least 68 people were arrested are being charged with criminal trespass to property, police said.

The encampment was set up by students from Columbia College Chicago and School of the Art Institute of Chicago, ABC7 was told. Video shows officers moving in to dismantle it around 4:30 p.m. Some protesters in the garden area could be seen being arrested by police, while others were escorted away.

"People of all ages are waking up to the fact that the United States is once again supporting an apartheid government," activist Andy Thayer said.

In addition to the encampment, several dozen protesters demonstrated on the sidewalks near the Art Institute at Michigan Avenue and Monroe Street, where for a while police simply observed as a combination of students and activists railed against the U.S. government's aid to Israel.

"The 500-pound gorilla needs to stop being funded. All of our candidates are being paid by them," protester David Hammond said.

This is the first time the Chicago Police Department has executed this level of arrests since the beginning of the pro-Palestinian encampments.

The Art Institute of Chicago stated that despite efforts to provide protesters with an alternate location, and despite offering those who are their students amnesty from academic sanction and trespassing charges things escalated when "...protesters surrounded and shoved a security officer and stole their keys to the museum, blocked emergency exits and barricaded gates."

Chicago police said they negotiated for more than two hours before the Art Institute requested CPD remove the encampment at 3:30 p.m., after which officers gave protesters three warnings before going in to begin clearing the area. Demonstrators were given the opportunity to leave without arrest, which many of them agreed to. Others locked arms resisting as officers took each of them into custody.

A large police presence was already in the area Saturday morning to block streets for the Polish Constitution Day Parade.

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The Chicago Police Department issued the following full statement about the protests:

At approximately 11:00 a.m., demonstrators set up an encampment at a garden on the Art Institute of Chicago property in the 100 block of South Michigan Avenue. Demonstrators barricaded and locked the gates to fortify their position. Chicago Police Department personnel immediately responded to maintain the safety of those participating in the demonstration, as well as all those in the surrounding area. For more than two hours, CPD negotiated with demonstrators and attempted to clear the area without arrest. During negotiations, the Art Institute offered an alternate site for the demonstrators, but the demonstrators refused. At approximately 3:30 p.m., the Art Institute requested CPD take enforcement action to remove those illegally occupying the property and a complaint was signed. At 4:11 p.m., CPD issued a warning to disperse. At 4:20 p.m., CPD issued a second warning to disperse. The third and final warning was issued at 4:30 p.m. The demonstrators were given another opportunity to leave without arrest, which several did. following these warnings, dozens of demonstrators were arrested for criminal trespass to property. Within 20 minutes of the final warning, the area was cleared.

The Art Institute of Chicago issued the following full statement about the protests:

The Art Institute of Chicago respects a group's right to peacefully protest without harming staff and visitors. Today, a group of individuals, including some SAIC students, began a protest in the museum's North Garden, and as it progressed, protesters surrounded and shoved a security officer and stole their keys to the museum, blocked emergency exits, and barricaded gates. The protest also began to escalate on Michigan Avenue outside of the museum. Because our priority is the safety of our employees, our visitors, and our collection, protesters were offered an alternative location to continue their protest on campus that would be safer for all involved, and they did not accept that relocation offer. During multiple rounds of negotiations, SAIC student protesters were promised amnesty from academic sanction and trespassing charges if they agreed to relocate. The School also agreed to meet with a student group to discuss their demands. After approximately five hours, an agreement could not be reached. The Chicago Police Department ended the protest in the safest way possible, and we estimate that approximately 50 people were arrested.

Meanwhile on Saturday, students remained in an encampment at the University of Chicago for a sixth day.