May 5, 2024 - News

Protests over war in Gaza escalate on Chicago campuses

Chicago police officers, some in military gear, arrest protesters, some who are facedown on the grass.

Police take demonstrators into custody on the campus of the Art Institute of Chicago on Saturday. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Tensions escalated this weekend after police arrested 68 participants for criminal trespassing during a student-led School of the Art Institute protest.

Why it matters: Chicago protests had, until this point, stayed largely peaceful, avoiding police involvement and confrontations between protesters, but this weekend's events could offer a preview of what lies ahead for Chicago at this summer's Democratic National Convention.

The big picture: The protests over Gaza — led by students, educators and activists — are part of a national movement calling on some schools to divest from companies that support Israel and to protest U.S. involvement in the war.

The latest: Sunday afternoon, the formerly quiet DePaul encampment attracted hundreds of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters chanting slogans and shouting at each other, buffered by a gate and a wall of police along Fullerton.

  • Small skirmishes broke out as some demonstrators confronted each other verbally and physically, but they were quickly broken up by police.
Chicago police stand in front of black iron gate that's lined with Palestinian flags as counterprotestors wrapped in Israeli flags look on.
Protesters, counter-protesters and police at DePaul in Lincoln Park on Sunday. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

Background: Sixty-eight protesters at a School of the Art Institute (SAIC) rally were arrested Saturday for criminal trespassing hours after they set up an encampment in the North Garden at the Art Institute.

  • Protesters tell Axios that SAIC administrators offered to let them stay in the museum garden until Sunday morning if they agreed to move to an SAIC academic building. But 20 minutes later while protesters were discussing the offer, administrators told them police were on their way, they said.

The other side: Museum spokesperson Megan Michienzi says officials negotiated for hours — even offering amnesty from academic sanctions if demonstrators left — before asking police "to end the protest in the safest way possible."

People, clothes and a table of food and drinks set up outside a police station.
Students gathered at the 19th District police station with food and blankets Sunday morning to wait for fellow protesters to be released through mid-morning. Photo: Monica Eng/Axios

What they're saying: Demonstrators were held all night at the 19th District police station. Sunday morning, several told Axios that police failed to provide them with a phone call or return property including money, a ring and a bassoon reed.

  • Three showed Axios cuts and bruises on their legs and arms that they said were from "brutal" treatment by police during the arrest.
  • Video captured by a Sun-Times reporter shows an officer shoving a protester.

The other side: CPD officials said the protesters were allowed phone calls but had not responded to other allegations by Sunday evening.

What's next: School of the Art Institute's commencement ceremony is scheduled for May 20. A spokesperson for the school tells Axios ceremony plans have not changed.

Editor's note: This story has been changed to remove the name of a protester in order to protect their safety.

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