Police break up pro-Palestinian camp at University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Police broke up a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of Michigan before dawn Tuesday, citing a threat to public safety and coming less than a week after protesters increased pressure by placing Fake body bags on a school official’s lawn.

Officers wearing helmets with face shields removed about 50 people from the Diag, known for decades as a site of campus protests. A video posted online showed police using what appeared to be an irritant to spray people, who were forced to leave.

“UM is not a camp,” Sarah Hubbard, president of the university’s board of trustees, said on social platform X.

At least four people were arrested, prompting protesters to move to the Washtenaw County Jail, where they marched outside in support of their allies.

“We will not stop, we will not rest,” a coalition of pro-Palestinian student groups said on social media.

The on-campus camp was set up on April 22, near the end of the school year and just before families began arriving for spring graduation. Posters mocking President Santa Ono and other officials were also displayed.

After the camp was cleared, nearby buildings, including the undergraduate and graduate libraries, were locked down, and police turned away students who showed up to study.

Ono said in a statement that the camp had become a security threat, with overloaded power sources and open flames. Organizers, he added, refused to comply with requests to make changes following an inspection by a fire marshal.

“The disregard for safety directives was just the latest in a series of troubling events centered on a camp that has always violated the rules governing the Diag, especially the rules that ensure the space is available to everyone,” Ono said.

Protesters have demanded that the school’s foundation stop investing in companies with ties to Israel. But the university insists that it has no direct investments and less than 15 million dollars placed with funds that could include companies in Israel. That’s less than 0.1% of the total endowment.

“There is nothing to talk about. That issue is resolved,” Hubbard said last week.

A group of 30 protesters showed up at his home on May 15 and placed stuffed, red-stained sheets on his lawn to look like body bags. They beat a drum and chanted slogans through a megaphone.

Face covering people also posted demands on other board members’ doors.

“This conduct is what brings our failure to address anti-Semitism to literally, literally, my front door,” board member Mark Bernstein, a Detroit-area attorney, said at a meeting of the Regents last Thursday. “Who is next? When and where will this end? As a Jew, I know the answer to these questions because our experience is full of tragedies that we are at serious risk of repeating. Enough is enough.”

Students and others have set up tents on campuses across the country to pressure universities to cut financial ties with Israel. Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall, but demonstrations spread quickly after the April 18 police crackdown on a Camp at Columbia University. College arrests have surpassed the 3,000 mark nationwide.

An encampment of pro-Palestinian protesters at Philadelphia’s Drexel University persisted Tuesday despite a previous threat by the president of the school for clarification.

University administrators attempted to open a line of communication with protesters but were rebuffed, Drexel President John Fry said in a statement Tuesday. He said city and campus police planned to monitor a demonstration at the camp scheduled for Tuesday night.

Master classes will remain virtual for a third day on Wednesday due to camp and some events will have to be rescheduled, Fry said.

“Many of you have expressed frustration with our decision to reduce in-person classes and activities. I understand and share your frustration. But rest assured, we are doing everything we can to safely return our campus to normal operations,” he said.

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White reported from Detroit. Associated Press writer Michael Rubinkam in northeastern Pennsylvania contributed to this report.