University of Wisconsin-Madison protests: 3 deputies, trooper injured clearing encampment, UWPD says

At least 12 arrested as police took down pro-Palestinian encampment, officials said

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
3 deputies, trooper injured clearing UW-Madison encampment: police
Three deputies and a state trooper were injured while clearing a protest encampment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday, police said.

MADISON, Wis. (WLS) -- Three deputies and a state trooper were injured as law enforcement broke up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Wednesday morning, university police said.

Protestors on Library Mall were dispersed after 7 a.m. Wednesday by officers from UWPD and state and local law enforcement, police said.

At least 12 people were arrested, including several who resisted arrest, according to police.

"It is not yet clear how many are affiliated with UW-Madison," police said.

SEE ALSO: DePaul University pro-Palestinian encampment spurs counter-protesters

Multiple tents were taken down and disassembled to remove the encampment.

Campus continues to operate normally on Wednesday, and there is no threat to safety. UWPD remains on the scene to ensure any continuing protests remain safe and lawful, police said.

"UW-Madison values free expression and has consistently supported those who exercise their rights, within the boundaries of law and campus policies. Tents and camping are not allowed on any university property," police said in a statement.

Three Dane County deputies were injured, and a state trooper was hit on the head with a skateboard while breaking down the encampment, police said.

RELATED: Jones College Prep students to hold sit-in in support of Palestinians in Gaza

Around 9 a.m. Monday, a group of 100-200 people began erecting the tents, and spent the next two days on Library Mall, university police said.

Over the course of several hours Monday and Tuesday, campus leaders spoke with those protesting, asking them to remove the tents, distributing printed warnings and offering to meet with protest organizers once the tents were removed from campus grounds, police said.

The encampment came as anti-war protests have spread among college campuses across the country.

Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin said in part Wednesday: "I also recognize that it is deeply felt pain and horror about the tragic and devastating loss of life and scale of destruction in Gaza that has fueled some of our community members' desire to protest in ways that go beyond what is legal and permissible. UW-Madison has a long and proud history of fighting for deeply felt causes and exercising our right to free expression. Civil disobedience has been a time-honored tradition in our nation, including here. Yet it is a long-standing element of the civil disobedience tradition to respect the laws we share and to accept that there are consequences for violating them. It is this that distinguishes civil disobedience from mere lawlessness.

Further, I take very seriously the trust that is placed in me to help protect the safety of our campus community. While the gathering on Library Mall this week had been largely peaceful, we have witnessed disturbing accounts of people not affiliated with the campus coming into the area, attracted by the encampment, and engaging in confrontational and other inciteful behaviors. Such an increased risk to the safety of our community, which would be expected to grow over time, was a significant contributing factor to today's action to address the illegal encampment. A small number of blatantly antisemitic actions on the grounds of the encampment have been credibly reported, but we have no evidence that any members of our UW-Madison community engaged in this odious activity.

We have received and are investigating bias reports involving individuals from outside of our campus community. The presence of non-community members, including, reportedly, several highly aggressive individuals, is one of the predictable harms of an encampment like the one illegally staged on our campus and is one of the reasons we chose to act today. Let me state clearly that true threats and harassment based on one's identity, religion or national origin will not be tolerated on our campus. Anyone experiencing this is urged to file a bias report. And let me repeat loudly and unequivocally that we must all roundly condemn both Islamophobia and antisemitism.

Like many other college campuses across the country and the world, we expect to continue to face protest activity, and we recognize and respect that protest is part of our community's precious right to free speech and expression. But such rights are not unlimited: The boundaries that our laws and code of conduct place on speech are meant to ensure that all have access to our common spaces and that dialogue takes place without intimidation or exclusion.

Now that the tents have been removed, and as long as protest abides by campus and state rules and policies, members of my leadership team stand ready to continue to listen to the concerns of the members of our community involved in this week's protest. This was a condition we communicated to protesters repeatedly.

In addition, we have held a valuable set of engagements around issues of concern with members of Muslim, Palestinian and Jewish communities over the course of this academic year and we invite continued dialogue. I recognize that many in the Muslim and Palestinian communities on our campus continue to feel unheard and hope we can create further opportunities for engagement and understanding.

I also understand that many of our Jewish community members have experienced fear and anxiety during this year as well as during this week's protest. I am grateful to campus partners and others who provided care for them over the past several challenging days during which they sought to celebrate the conclusion of Passover.

The role of campus leadership is not to take sides in national and international debates, or to make special allowances for particular points of view, but to ensure that all participants in campus life have access to university resources for learning and growth. We recognize that the campus debates of the last few months take place in the shadow of international violence that has touched a great many students, faculty and staff, either directly or indirectly. This violence has created strong emotions of fear and anger among many segments of our community.

We express our profound empathy for those who have had to navigate this academic year amid ongoing grief and heartbreak due to the devastating destruction, injustice, and loss of life in Israel and Gaza. If you're a student who needs support related to this or any other situation, the university is prepared to help. If you're a faculty or staff member, contact the Employee Assistance Office.

As we move into the waning days of this academic year, I look forward to a commencement celebration with the very special class of 2024 who largely missed out on their high school graduation festivities because of the pandemic. I thank our faculty and staff for providing a rich and impactful educational experience to our students over the past year. And as we collectively reflect on the activities and lessons of the past week, let us, even in the midst of great challenge, do all we can to recognize and respect each other's humanity and seek to understand those with viewpoints different from our own."