University of Chicago police clear protest encampment

University of Chicago police began clearing an encampment of pro-Palestine demonstrators Tuesday morning on the school's Hyde Park campus.

Student protesters linked arms in a standoff with U of C police dressed in riot gear around 4:45 a.m. near Ellis Avenue outside the encampment, which was installed on the main quad over a week ago. 

Campus administrators warned them Friday to leave the area or face removal. Police in riot gear blocked access to the Quad on Tuesday as law enforcement dismantled the encampment. 

Officers picked up a barricade and moved it toward protesters, some of whom chanted, "Up up with liberation, Down down with occupation!" Police and protesters pushed back and forth along the barricade as the officers moved to reestablish control.

University of Chicago assistant professor Eman Abdelhadi said on X that police came in the middle of the night to tear down the tents and signs. Leaflets were given to students, demanding they leave the encampment or face arrest for criminal trespass.

"[Police] made us think they were going to raid us at 3 a.m. and they had everyone prepared to withstand being violently raided because we didn't know what we were going to get," one protester said. "So we prepared everyone, and then they left, and they made us think that they had gone away and then at about 4 a.m., they silently crept up on us with riot gear out of f****** nowhere."

By 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, the number of protesters had doubled to more than 200. About 30 minutes later, campus police removed a barricade and stepped aside to allow protesters back into the Quad where they gathered in front of Levi Hall, the campus administration building.

Cook County Sheriff's officers were also seen at the encampment. There have been no reported injuries or arrests.  

On Tuesday, University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos shared a statement saying the university is ending the encampment because of safety concerns. The statement read:

"Protest is a strongly protected form of speech in the UChicago culture, and the demonstrators had multiple opportunities to express their views. But many aspects of the protests also interfered with the free expression, learning, and work of others. Safety concerns have mounted over the last few days, and the risks were increasing too rapidly for the status quo to hold. This morning, the University intervened to end the encampment.

The protesters were given an opportunity to disassemble their structures and depart the encampment, and there have been no arrests. Where appropriate, disciplinary action will proceed.

Over multiple days, including through the weekend, we engaged with the representatives of the encampment to work toward a resolution. There were areas where we were able to achieve common ground, but ultimately a number of the intractable and inflexible aspects of their demands were fundamentally incompatible with the University’s principled dedication to institutional neutrality. As such, we could not come to a resolution. 

The University remains a place where dissenting voices have many avenues to express themselves, but we cannot enable an environment where the expression of some dominates and disrupts the healthy functioning of the community for the rest.

Tensions rose over the weekend between pro-Palestinian supporters and counter-protesters, who have now displayed Israeli flags on the quad. Some physical and verbal confrontations unfolded, but things remained peaceful Monday.

Faculty for Justice in Palestine – a collective of professors and staff members who are standing in solidarity with protesters – asked the university to resume discussions with student organizers on Monday.

"We support the protesters’ central demands that the university divest its endowment, and that it suspends its formal cooperation with Israeli institutions," said Anton Ford, associate professor, University of Chicago.

They also urged administrators to refrain from using police to intervene in demonstrations or to dismantle the encampment.

"The use of police force in these circumstances does not serve to protect but rather to intimidate and silence," said Allyson Nadia Field, associate professor, University of Chicago.