Apr 30, 2024 - News

17 arrested at University of Utah pro-Palestinian protest encampment

Illustration of a hand holding a protest sign in the shape of chalkboard with a graduation cap

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A pro-Palestinian rally and short-lived encampment at the University of Utah ended late Monday night when police arrested 17 people.

Why it matters: It was the first campus protest encampment in Utah since demonstrations broke out at colleges and universities across the nation in recent weeks.

  • Students and other activists are decrying U.S. support for Israel's war in Gaza.

The intrigue: The police crackdown at the U was more swift than at several campuses in other states, where demonstrations have been ongoing for weeks.

Driving the news: About 300 people gathered at Presidents Circle Monday afternoon in what the organizing group MECHA described as "an emergency rally for Palestine."

  • Protesters erected about 20 tents before police removed them and arrested those who refused to leave, KSL.com reported.
  • MECHA said police fired "rubber bullets" at some protesters; KSL reported one man was struck by a "bean bag" round.
  • Some protesters were accused of throwing things at officers, and the university reported police confiscated a hatchet during the rally. One officer was injured, per the U's statement.

Between the lines: The group demanded the U divest its endowment from Israeli-owned companies and U.S. companies benefiting from the war.

  • Demonstrators focused on the university's ties to Utah's aerospace and defense industry — particularly Lockheed-Martin and 47G, which has a research partnership with the U, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

What's next: MECHA posted on Instagram that they plan to continue protesting, though no details were disclosed.

Flashback: MECHA members were arrested in the weeks following campus protests in November.

Context: Activists say protest movements are typically slow to reach Utah campuses — in part because most universities here are commuter schools, and in part because Utah culture is broadly unreceptive to dissent.

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