Your NPR news source
Northwestern students set up a protest camp on Deering Meadow on Thursday morning.

Northwestern students set up a protest camp on Deering Meadow on Thursday morning.

Pat Nabong

Northwestern students opposed to war in Gaza set up protest encampment on campus

Pro-Palestinian student activists began to set up an encampment on the campus of Northwestern University Thursday morning to protest the war in Gaza.

Police arrived on the scene within five minutes, a protestor told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The group is demanding the university divest from institutions that support Israel, according to WBEZ higher education reporter Lisa Kurian Philip, who was on the scene. 

“They’re also asking for school officials to protect their civil liberties,” Kurian Philip told WBEZ’s Reset. “As we’ve seen on some other campuses, some school administrators…have taken very, almost militaristic stances against their students.”

The development comes after universities around the country — Columbia University, USC and others — began to crack down on students protesting the war, calling in police, making arrests and taking other steps to quash demonstrations.

When the tent encampment began to take shape Thursday at Northwestern, the university’s president Michael Schill sent a letter to students with an “interim addendum” to the school’s Code of Conduct.

“The addendum makes temporary changes to how protestors can engage on our Evanston campus, including at The Rock; and the rules governing chalkings, tents and other provisions,” Schill wrote to students.

“Any violation of the rules contained in this document or in our policies could lead to disciplinary actions such as suspension or expulsion, and possibly criminal sanctions,” he added.

Northwestern professors who support the students right to protest were seen linking arms with students to stop police from accessing around 15 tents set up in Deering Meadow Thursday morning.

More than 100 faculty signed a letter asking the school’s president and provost to allow demonstrations on campus.

“This is a historic moment in which students around the country and the world are voicing what they want their universities to be or do,” the letter reads. “The university will fail in its most basic promises and commitments if it shuts down student gatherings.”

By noon, faculty supporters of the action had brought 20 pizzas and bottles of water for the group of activists, which Kurian Philip said had grown to about 100 students.

There were no reports of arrests or citations, and reporters on the scene noted that police vehicles began to leave the scene around noon.

There was dancing, and a purple-and-white flier taped to a fence called the protest area the Northwestern Liberated Zone: “Support the encampments! Protect students on campus! End apartheid abroad!” it read.

The flier also encouraged people to sign a so-called “Northwestern People’s Resolution,” a petition organized by student protesters with a list of demands for university leadership.

As of 12:45 pm Thursday, more than 1900 people had signed the document.

“From what I can tell, they’re planning to stay," Kurian Philip said. "Until the administration, at the very least, acknowledges them [and] comes to speak with them about their demands."

GUEST: Lisa Kurian Philip, WBEZ higher education reporter

More From This Show
One detainee died within 24 hours of being admitted into the facility.
City Council approves one of the largest ever police misconduct settlements, but defers on earlier teen curfew and ethics ordinance.
Lapell’s latest album ‘Anniversary’ features songs about love, loss and life.