DePaul students pitch tents on campus, join pro-Palestinian protests

The campus joins protests across the country calling on universities to divest from companies supporting Israel.

DePaul students pitch tents on campus, join pro-Palestinian protests

The campus joins protests across the country calling on universities to divest from companies supporting Israel.

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DePaul University students have launched an encampment in the quadrangle of the university’s Lincoln Park campus, joining campuses across the country expressing support for the people of Gaza and demanding their schools cut financial ties with Israel.

The encampment officially began at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and by noon, over 100 students had gathered on the lawn. Students shared lunch, some signed in to online classes, and others tossed a volleyball around.

The schedule for Tuesday’s encampment includes speakers, prayers, a teach-in and rally.

“We posted this encampment only a few hours before, and as you can see, we already have numbers,” Henna Ayesh, an organizer with the DePaul University Divest Coalition told the Sun-Times. “I think that’s a testament to the power of the Chicago community as a whole and just [that] people in general support Palestine.”

The DePaul students join hundreds of University of Chicago students who established an encampment on their university’s main quadrangle Monday morning.

The demonstrations come after days of protest at Northwestern University’s Evanston campus, where students and faculty occupied Deering Meadow for five days before reaching an agreement with university officials to take down the tents. Protests there will continue until June 1, when classes end.

Ayesh said several Northwestern organizers have stopped by the DePaul encampment to drop off tents and supplies.

DePaul University’s Divestment Coalition Encampment has published a list of demands, which call on the administration to acknowledge the mounting death toll in Gaza, divest from companies that “advance Palestinian suffering and profit off the occupation,” and join the city of Chicago in calling for a cease-fire.

Nour Odeh, a DePaul alum and organizer with anti-war group CodePink, said groups made similar demands when she was a student two years ago.

“These aren’t new demands, necessarily,” Odeh said, sitting outside her pink tent in the quad. “In my time at DePaul, we were asking for the same thing, for them to publicize their investment portfolio because the students don’t know where their money is going.”

DePaul’s office of the president emailed students Tuesday morning telling them they are “monitoring the situation closely.”

“While tents and unpermitted structures on DePaul’s property violate a variety of university policies, we invite the members of our university community who are protesting to discuss with us how to peacefully express themselves,” the email read. “Our goal is to identify a path forward that allows our community to make their voices heard, while also respecting the rights of their fellow students to continue active engagement in their education and staying in compliance with the law and university policy.”

Ayesh, a sophomore at the University, said the email was just a repeat of past statements and the university has not reached out directly to any organizers. If or when the administration does reach out, Ayesh said the coalition has a team ready to enter into negotiations.

“It’s not anything new,” Ayesh said. “They reinstate their values to DePaul but then don’t actually abide by it.”

About 3 p.m. Tuesday, a handful of counter-protesters arrived carrying Israeli and American flags. The counter-protesters stood in a circle near the entrance to the quadrangle, at times chanting “bring them home” but did not approach the encampment.

Lily Hecht, a freshman and co-president of Hillel, said she joined the counter-protest to show there is a Jewish population at DePaul, and “we’re proud and we support Israel.”

Organizers at the encampment instructed participants not to engage directly with the counter-protesters.

During the counter-demonstration, the hundreds of encampment participants responded with chants of “Say it loud and say it clear: Zionists aren’t welcome here” and “Shame on you.” But there was little interaction between the two groups, and the counter-protesters eventually dispersed.