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Faculty, students protests occur on Northrop Mall, at Coffman Union

The protests and encampment protested the University’s financial involvement with several companies affiliated with the Israel-Hamas war.

The University of Minnesota Police Department (UMPD) cleared an encampment protesting the University’s investment in the Israel-Hamas war on the north end of Northrop Mall early Tuesday morning. Organizers held a response walkout in front of Coffman Union at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday.

Event flyers said the afternoon event was organized to protest “the political repression of Palestine activists on campus.” The morning encampments were calling attention to Israel’s conduct in Gaza.  As of Tuesday evening, nine tents had been erected on the green space in front of Coffman Union to continue the protest. 

UMPD made nine arrests on trespassing charges: seven students, one faculty member and one person not found in the University registry.

Campus organizers called for the encampments to be set up at 4 a.m. The first arrivals showed up at 3:45 a.m. with 15 tents, said organizer Sorcha Lona.

Lona, an encampment organizer for SDS and one of the nine arrested, said she was on a supply run for personal belongings when she received a text about UMPD’s presence. She returned to the Mall and joined the organizers next to the tents.

“We were sitting completely still in a circle with our arms linked, chanting in support of Palestine,” Lona said. “They took us one by one, handcuffed us all. I know at least half of us still have marks from the handcuffs.”

According to Lona, the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” encampment at Columbia University inspired the idea for organizers to build their own.

The encampment stood until UMPD arrived at 6 a.m. and told organizers to disperse before 7 a.m., University spokesperson Jake Ricker said in an email statement to The Minnesota Daily.

SDS spokesperson Annie Russell said the people who got arrested were closest to the tents, and everyone else was in the vicinity. She said most of the tents and equipment were lent or donated by supporters and set up by the organization.

“Some of us decided to stay and the rest of us were going to organize the response,” Russell said regarding the arrests. “We don’t want a situation where everyone is taken out at once, but we don’t just wanna give up.”

According to University policy, “rallies, demonstrations or other gatherings of a similar nature of fewer than 100 participants are allowed without a permit in the following outdoor spaces or immediately adjacent to these spaces and buildings.”

However, the policy further states permits are required to display a tent on University outdoor spaces.

University alumni and protestor Scott Smith said the police response to the protest was disproportionate and there were a huge amount of law enforcement officers.

“You can tell someone’s moral ineptitude when they call on such overwhelming force, it’s just wrong,” Smith said. “These students are sending the right message at the right time.”

Students at the protest estimated that the number of police officers ranged from 15 to 25. 

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) spokesperson Omar Ali said the ratio of cops to students was around three to one, and the arrests were live-streamed on the SDS Instagram story. Ali said the cops told everyone there they would be arrested.

“We were recording from the outside and were told we would be arrested too,” Ali said.  

Ali said UMPD arrested the students and dumped all of their belongings in the trash. He added the materials on the lawn, including tents, water and study materials.

“Their priority was to clean up the encampment before anyone could see it,” Ali said. “They have never come to a protest, they only come if we are outnumbered.”

Encampment organizers, led by students and faculty, called for the University to financially disinvest in companies in commerce with Israel and its military and prohibit them from recruiting students on campus.

Professor Sima Shakhsari, who attended the protest, said the University invests in Woodward and Lockheed Martin, companies she said are complicit in the violence in Gaza. She said money invested by the University can go straight to companies that are operating in illegal settlements in Palestine, demolishing homes or dropping bombs. 

“Woodward bombs were found in Gaza,” Shakhsari said. “Our tax money, our pensions, our student tuitions are going to support the genocide in Gaza right now.”

Shakhsari said University leadership has not had the integrity to facilitate the protests and hear out the students.

SDS spokesperson Merlin Van Alstine said the tents will stay up until the SDS demands regarding divestment, transparency and complicity are met. She said one goal of SDS is the full amnesty of students, faculty and staff that have been repressed.

Ali said student organizations like SJP and SDS have tried for seven consecutive months to get the administration to listen to their demands. 

“We met with both presidents, we won a campus referendum, we tried to do petitions, they aren’t listening to any of us,” Ali said. “Now we have protests, and they are going to ban us?”

City council member Robin Wonsley said she is proud to see students standing up for Palestinian lives. Israel-Hamas war student efforts heavily contributed to the Minneapolis City Council 2024 ceasefire resolution decision, she said.

“We had interracial and intergenerational coalitions show up at city hall, time and time again, and say ‘You have to do this,’” Wonsley said. “Our students are going to be super crucial in making that happen.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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  • Xiccarph
    Apr 29, 2024 at 9:19 am

    I thought “Idiocracy” was a movie! Apparently it is now Socialist Democrat reality….

  • Thomas
    Apr 25, 2024 at 9:23 am

    Lol you call me a bootlicker and now you’re trying to pretend like you’re taking the moral highroad?

    You don’t matter. Nothing you’ve ever said, thought or done has been of any value to anyone.

  • peace be with you
    Apr 25, 2024 at 6:38 am

    Yeah, it posted twice but it wasn’t a joke either time. If you don’t care why did you come back to say so? I bet you’ll respond again. I won’t be back as there is work to do. You enjoy your misplaced anger…although for real: I do hope you’ll reconnect with your humanity someday soon. Once you do, you’ll find there is real power there. Good luck to you, Thomas.

  • Bob Mecum
    Apr 24, 2024 at 11:13 pm

    Have the student organizations condemned Hamas for the initial raid on the Israeli village, or for taking hostages or for using innocent Palestinians as human sheilds? The innocent suffer due to the actions of terrorism.

  • Thomas
    Apr 24, 2024 at 10:33 pm

    Wow the same tired joke twice. You’re very intelligent.
    No one on the face of the earth cares what you think about anything.

  • You tried
    Apr 24, 2024 at 8:19 pm

    I appreciate you responding. All that boot leather in your mouth makes you impossible to understand. Spit it out and try again.

  • You tried
    Apr 24, 2024 at 7:59 pm

    I appreciate you trying to respond. I’m afraid all that boot leather in your mouth makes you impossible to understand.

  • Thomas
    Apr 24, 2024 at 6:27 pm

    The people protesting are *literally* the exact same people that have spent the last 4 years screaming about how words are violence and that a club sponsored painting on a bridge is “traumatizing”.

    Now though – amazingly – they’ve rediscovered the concept of free speech.


  • ronde ricobo
    Apr 24, 2024 at 4:32 pm

    this might be a good time to recollect that the vast majority of minnesota was acquired by means of genocide. also, the university began with a land grant in 1862; and each of the land grant universities was mandated to recruit for rotc. i’m sure you already know about the freemasons, so there seems little point in belaboring the fact that little has changed.

  • are you a winner?
    Apr 24, 2024 at 2:27 pm

    Emotions are running high, and rightly so. No need for name calling, Thomas. Curious, though, why are you glad people were arrested and banned?

  • Thomas
    Apr 24, 2024 at 1:56 pm

    I’m glad these people were arrested and banned from campus. They’re complete losers.

  • drop all charges
    Apr 24, 2024 at 1:52 pm

    Deepest respect to Prof. Shahsari and all others calling for justice and peace. It is utterly bizarre that U of Mn community members who stand in public solidarity with the principles this institution says it is built on are arrested and BANNED FROM CAMPUS because of…unauthorized tents.


  • Q
    Apr 24, 2024 at 12:47 pm

    This type of police response to a peaceful protest is insane given the complete lack of accountability they’ve had dealing with actual crime in dinkytown this week

  • Crow
    Apr 24, 2024 at 9:24 am

    Not only were those students & staff arrested, they were BANNED from campus for an entire year. effective now. Also, it’s Israel genociding Palestine, not a war.

  • Stephen Hauser
    Apr 24, 2024 at 8:35 am

    Have the pro-Palestine groups applied for permits to pitch tents? If so, have they been denied?

  • Evan
    Apr 24, 2024 at 7:59 am

    “Israel-Hamas War” is a gross and troubling misrepresentation. This is genocide against the Palestinian people. Call it what it is.

  • John Fredell
    Apr 24, 2024 at 7:50 am

    How does the system work? Do police act on their own enforcing UMN regulations as they understand them, or does the administration direct their actions?
    If it’s against UMN policy to erect tents on the mall, it seems that the police should have addressed only that issue and offered the protesters the option, do you want to fold up your tent and keep it, or should we fold it up and confiscate it? If I understand the issue correctly, it seems that the tents were the only violation.