80 pro-Palestinian protesters have charges dropped after Art Institute encampment arrests

Local leaders worry dropping charges sends wrong message, with DNC 1 month away

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, July 3, 2024
80 protesters have charges dropped after downtown encampment arrests
80 pro-Palestinian protesters had their charges dropped Tuesday after their arrests during an Art Institute of Chicago encampment.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dozens of pro-Palestinian protestors walked free Tuesday, after having their charges dropped following their arrests in May.

Now, some local leaders are concerned this sends the wrong message, with the Democratic National Convention just a month away.

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It was all hugs after 80 people walked out of the courthouse, free of all charges.

"None of us showed up to be arrested. I didn't show up to be arrested," protester Jeffery Sun said. "We're trying everything we can because of the ongoing genocide in Palestine."

Sun is one of the 80 protesters whose charges were dropped after being arrested for criminal trespassing when creating an encampment at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute said earlier this summer they would not pursue prosecution against their students. And the state's attorney's office referenced their peaceful protest policy as the reason for dropping the charges. But others say this sends the wrong message.

"No question that crimes were committed during this illegal encampment, there was criminal trespassing. There was refusal to disperse and follow lawful orders. There was vandalism; there was assault. Several police officers were physically attacked," 2nd Ward Ald. Brian Hopkins said.

SEE MORE: Art Institute of Chicago no longer pursuing charges against 68 arrested at pro-Palestinian protest

Hopkins said he's working with the Secret Service and Chicago police to prepare for the Democratic National Convention, where many protests are expected.

"They need to be prosecuted. If we're not willing to do that, then we as a society are saying we're willing to let protesters do whatever they want, without regard to the damage that they cause," Hopkins said.

"They did not have a case against us; I think on some level they just did not want to actually engage with considering what protesting genocide means," Sun said.

Daniel Goldwin, executive director for the Jewish United Fund, said he believes in free speech, but worries after seeing places like Buckingham Fountain recently vandalized, that protesters are taking things too far.

"If they have a place and a location that the government has established, 'here is a place that's appropriate for you to speak your mind and be heard,' then they should go there," Goldwin said. "But there are rules. And there are limits to what is allowed under free speech."

Those who had their charges dropped said they have a protest scheduled for July 4 at Millennium Park.