Updated May 1, 2024 - News

SWAT team removes and arrests pro-Palestinian protesters at Tulane

Photo shows protesters with a pallet barricade in front of them.

Protesters used wooden pallets, tires and construction barricades to reinforce the boundary of their encampment at Tulane on Tuesday. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Police, including SWAT team members, removed a pro-Palestinian encampment early Wednesday on Tulane University's campus in New Orleans.

Why it matters: The encampment was a flashpoint for university leadership navigating pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian sentiment in the Israel-Hamas war.

The big picture: Tulane police led a coordinated effort with New Orleans police and Louisiana state troopers to remove the protesters, Tulane said in a statement early Wednesday.

  • At least 14 arrests were made, including two Tulane students, the school said.
  • Since Monday, 20 protesters have been arrested. Seven students have been suspended.
  • "We remain opposed to trespassing, hate speech, antisemitism and bias against religious or ethnic groups," Tulane's statement said, adding the protests are "deeply disturbing to our community and their sense of wellbeing and safety."

Driving the news: NOPD, LSP and Tulane PD went in around 3am "at the urging of Tulane's president," according to NOPD spokesperson Karen Boudrie.

  • "We are unaware of injuries at this time," she told Axios at 6am.
Locator map of college campuses with reported encampments or sit-ins related to the war in Gaza. There have been at least 82 reported encampments as of April 30, with the most clustered in universities in the Northeast. At least 30 campuses have reported police arrests.
Data: Axios research; Note: Universities with joint encampments reported separately; Locations approximated for clarity; Map: Kavya Beheraj, Tory Lysik and Will Chase/Axios

State of play: Pro-Palestinian student protests have spread across U.S. campuses in the past week, urging school leaders to disclose and divest from Israel or companies that support the country.

  • Tulane and Loyola have had multiple marches and rallies since Hamas' October attack on Israel.
  • Juleea Berthelot with Students for a Democratic Society tells Axios New Orleans that she and others decided to start the encampment Monday in response to the organization's national call.
  • "We're fed up," said Berthelot, who is a Loyola sophomore from Slidell.

What he's saying: "Many colleges across our country may allow this lawlessness, but Louisiana will NOT," Gov. Jeff Landry posted on X after the encampment was removed. "This State will not tolerate those who seek to disturb the peace by means of criminality."

The friction point: Tulane leaders and counter-protesters say most of the protesters are not affiliated with Tulane.

  • The protesters pushed back on that Tuesday, saying most in the encampment were Tulane and Loyola students.
Photo shows protesters at Tulane with a Palestinian flag.
Tulane parked this large digital sign in front of the encampment Tuesday. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Zoom in: Tulane said it issued multiple verbal warnings, written statements and broadcasted messages to protesters this week.

  • On Tuesday, Tulane parked a large digital sign on the grass that said it was private property and everyone must leave.
  • The school later started playing music to drown out the "Free Palestine" chants.

Between the lines: Staffers from the Independent Police Monitor have been at the encampment since Monday to watch NOPD's interactions with protesters, said Kirschelle McGowan, the deputy police monitor.

  • McGowan, who was at the protest Tuesday, said she was looking for use of force and if it is justified.

What's next: Security measures and a visible police presence "will remain at their highest level" throughout the remainder of the semester, Tulane said.

  • Wednesday is the last day of classes for most students at Tulane before finals, officials say.
  • Buildings near the encampment site remain closed, and those classes will be held remotely.
Photo shows protesters at Tulane.
Protesters linked arms around about a dozen tents Tuesday on the front lawn of Tulane. Photo: Carlie Kollath Wells/Axios

Editor's note: This story was updated Wednesday with additional details and quotes.

Go deeper


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios New Orleans.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More New Orleans stories

New Orleanspostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios New Orleans.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more