DePaul University pro-Palestinian encampment draws counter-protesters

Thursday, May 2, 2024
DePaul encampment draws counter-protesters on day 2
DePaul University's pro-Palestinian encampment on the school's Lincoln Park campus drew some counter-protesters Wednesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Protests at DePaul University continued for a second day after demonstrators set up tents inside the quad.

Tuesday, pro-Palestinian demonstrators encountering supporters of Israel. At times confrontations were heated.

But with violent clashes now escalating on college campuses across the country, there is a concerted effort by university officials to not be next on that list.

Pro-Palestinian DePaul protestors are demanding the university disclose any investments that support Israel and divest.

"Obviously we're open, we're waiting for them to respond to us. We have a negotiation team ready to handle the negotiations," demonstrator Henna Ayesh said.

SEE ALSO: Clashes break out at UCLA between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters

DePaul officials said they have arranged a meeting with those leading the encampment, while also reaching out to other student groups as well. Chicago police are also looking to keep the city's campuses calm and accessible.

"With our universities here people are protesting peacefully. We're not engaging them in a way that is going to inflame what they are trying to do," said CPD Supt. Larry Snelling.

Political Analyst Laura Washington talks about the potential political fallout.

De-escalation and restraint is also what the ACLU of Illinois advocates for, while they acknowledge that even while university policies allow institutions to take down the encampments if they interfere with daily operations or at threatening to other students, the way it is done is vital.

"Every time someone escalates someone else will escalate even more. So the use of force is only going to suggest to people that either more force is either required," said Ed Yohnka, ACLU of Illinois.

In the evening a training session was held at the encampment on what to do if arrested, but organizers said their goal is to avoid confrontation.

"This is a peaceful protest. We have legal counsels here as well. We have police liaisons dealing with police," said student Henna Ayesh.

On the other side of the coin, however, are Jewish students and organizations who are increasingly feeling threatened and abandoned by their schools as antisemitic messaging is seen spreading across college campuses.

"We should not ensure that these students have the ability to have amplified sound. We should not make them comfortable where they are. They should stop the encampments from happening," Emily Brickman with the Jewish United Fund said. "They should not negotiate with protestors and they should apply the policies that are stated on their books. We understand freedom of speech. We ensure and fight for freedom of speech everyday but this is hate speech."

At DePaul, officials expressed a desire to find a path forward while also making it clear that "Any acts of hatred, violence, Islamophobia, or antisemitism will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary action."

ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer says universities face two major decisions. One is deciding what to do about encampments that violate university restrictions on where people can congregate. The other is what sort of speech crosses the line.

"What students don't have a right to do under the codes of conduct at the universities including DePaul's is to harass people or subject them to significant emotional distress," Soffer said.

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Wednesday, protests continue at the University of Chicago for a second day while another ended at Northwestern when the university agreed to more transparency in its investments.

Now at least one school, Northwestern University, is being sued. Three students allege "breach of contract," saying the school let their encampment become a "cesspool of hate" that was "hostile to Jews."

Northwestern President Michael Schill, who is Jewish, defended an agreement to end to protest that has led to calls for his resignation.

Schill addressed his agreement via video statement and acknowledged incidents of antisemitism.

"This needs to be condemned by all of us," Schill said. "And that starts with me. Jewish students must feel safe walking past Deering Meadow and everywhere on our campus."

And in a letter to Schill, seven members of his Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate resigned in part because the committee was "not consulted by the University's leadership" on the agreement.

"I felt that I couldn't guarantee the safety and well-being of Jewish students in the Evanston campus of Northwestern University," said Prof. Effie Benmelech, one of the committee members who stepped down.

Encampments are now springing up at the University of Illinois. So far no arrests have been made at any local university protests.