University of Michigan clears 50 from pro-Palestinian encampment

Three known arrests, two students confirmed hospitalized.

By Chris Benson

May 21 (UPI) -- Campus authorities on Tuesday cleared about 50 protesters from a pro-Palestinian tent encampment at the University of Michigan early Tuesday morning.

The University of Michigan confirmed that just before 6 a.m. EDT, the school's law enforcement began clearing the encampment on the university's Central Campus Diag.


"The university can and must regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure one group's right to protest does not infringe on the rights of others, endanger our community or disrupt the operations of the university," University of Michigan President Santa Ono said a statement Tuesday morning outlining the school's decision to clear and remove the encampment after nearly a month.

In addition to at least three known arrests, two students were confirmed to be hospitalized, according to the student-lead Tahrir Coalition, who said pepper spray was also involved.


Protestors were then seen on social media rallying at the Washtenaw County government building in Ann Arbor.

Up to 200 protesters reportedly inhabited the encampment in the days and hours before. It was first setup weeks ago on April 22 to demand that the university divest itself from Israeli-backed institutions amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

"Following a May 17 inspection by the university fire marshal, who determined that were a fire to occur, a catastrophic loss of life was likely, the fire marshal and Student Life leaders asked camp occupants to remove external camp barriers, refrain from overloading power sources, and stop using open flames," Ono wrote, saying protestors refused to comply, forcing the university to act.

Michigan state police were reportedly seen on campus around the encampment in recent weeks. But local police in Ann Arbor said they were "not involved with the clearing of protesters on the University of Michigan campus and made no arrests connected to the protest."

The university's public safety officials said their officers issued three verbal warnings over a 15-minute period, "asking the approximately 50 people who were in the encampment to leave voluntarily before being subject to arrest," the department said in a statement.


"In recent days, encampment participants have also received numerous outreach attempts from U-M administrators and DPSS leadership, asking them to leave," they said in a news release before 10 a.m.

"The encampment posed safety risks, both to participants and the community at large, and its presence was in violation of policies and regulations," they said, adding that its removal was important "to help maintain the safety and security of the U-M campus community."

In his letter, Ono noted "the disregard for safety directives was only the latest in a series of troubling events centered on an encampment that has always violated the rules that govern the Diag -- especially the rules that ensure the space is available to everyone."

This fresh encampment removal echoes a series of similar events recently at other American universities or college campuses, like New York's Columbia University, that have been calling for Israeli financial divestments in a pattern that extends back to South Africa's apartheid.

But divesting from Israel poses challenges in Michigan since the state has a law prohibiting state contracts with anyone who supports divesting from or boycotting Israel. In Michigan, a 1983 law did call for the state's higher learning institutions to divest from South African-based investments which got initial pushback from the University of Michigan


"Moving forward, individuals will be welcome to protest as they always have at the University of Michigan, so long as those protests don't violate the rights of others and are consistent with university policies meant to ensure the safety of our community," Ono's letter says.

"To be clear, there is no place for violence or intimidation at the University of Michigan. Such behavior will not be tolerated, and individuals will be held accountable."

Latest Headlines