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DePaul University issues update on dismantling of pro-Palestinian encampments – NBC Chicago

DePaul University released a statement Thursday after the school and Chicago police dismantled a pro-Palestinian encampment on school grounds, citing safety concerns for those inside and outside. outside the camp.

“I understand that the last 17 days have been stressful for many, not only on our campus, but also for those who live and work in our neighboring community,” DePaul President Robert L. Manuel said in a statement Thursday Morning. We are saddened that the situation has reached the point where the intervention of law enforcement was necessary to guarantee the safety and well-being of all, both inside and outside the camp. »

At 5:30 a.m. Thursday, the university said it, with the help of Chicago police officers, began dismantling the encampment and asking protesters to leave.

At the same time, the school released a website detailing what it described as “security threats and disruptions to campus operations,” featuring images and videos that “illustrate the escalation of the “impact of the encampment on the DePaul quad in Lincoln Park following a peaceful protest”. in a dangerous and intimidating environment for all DePaul and members of the local community. » The website says at least one death threat was received, along with four other credible threats of violence, several allegations of harassment and more than 600 complaints from community members and another 400 from students and faculty .

“From the start of the encampment, I said we would protect free speech and the ability to express dissent until it prevents us from carrying out the operations of our university or threatens the safety of members of our community I am deeply saddened to say that the encampment has crossed this line,” an earlier statement from Manual read in part.

According to Chicago police, officers were called after DePaul University signed a trespassing complaint surrounding the encampment early Thursday morning.

“Once this complaint was signed, Chicago Police worked with the DePaul University administration to begin safely dispersing the encampment on private property,” CPD said in a statement. “Dispersal orders were issued several times, first by DePaul University leadership, then by CPD at 5:37 a.m. As dispersal orders were issued, individuals at the inside the camp left voluntarily.”

Weapons were found during the dismantling, including knives, a pellet gun and more, the university said.

NBC 5 reporter Sandra Torres reported that protesters could be seen and heard chanting just outside campus after their eviction.

The encampment was finally emptied around 6 a.m., authorities said.

No arrests were made in the dispersal of the encampment, and police said all protesters left voluntarily and without “resistance.”

About an hour later, two people were arrested in the 1100 block of West Belden “for obstructing the highway,” police said. The two men, one of whom the university confirmed was a current student, were cited and released.

The quad and green spaces on the Lincoln Park campus have been closed “until further notice.” According to the school, the cost to repair the physical damage to the quad is nearly $180,000.

Chicago Ald. Timmy Knudsen, of the 43rd Precinct, noted the impact the protest had on neighborhood residents.

“As the conflict in the Middle East continues, we will continue to advocate for the city to balance its commitment to upholding First Amendment rights to protest, while ensuring the safety of our neighborhoods,” Knudsen said.

Meanwhile, Ald. Andre Vasquez called the decision to remove the camp “egregious” and “not the best use of public safety resources.” Father Michael Pfleger called it “a sad day for DePaul University.”

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson acknowledged Thursday the involvement of Chicago police, but said he “supports the right to lawfully and peacefully protest and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure safety of everyone involved.

Over the weekend, DePaul officials said negotiations between school officials and protesters had reached an impasse.

Benjamin Meyer, the attorney representing the DePaul Divestment Coalition group, said “the administration chose to use violence to disperse the encampment and unilaterally withdrew from negotiations.” Meyer alleged that students sent the administration an invitation for a meeting on Monday, “which none of the administrators attended.”

“As noted in previous posts, I believe the Divestment Coalition students started the encampment with the sincere intention of peaceful protest,” Manual’s post from Thursday said. “While their teaching sessions, library, and prayer services on the quad were peaceful in themselves, these good intentions could not outweigh the camp’s attraction to others with nefarious intentions and harmful.”

Students on many college campuses, including others in Chicago, set up similar encampments this spring, calling on their schools to sever ties with Israel and the businesses that support it, to protest Israel’s actions in the war against Hamas. The protests began as schools finished their spring semesters and are now holding graduation ceremonies.

NBC Chicago

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