University of Michigan protesters pepper sprayed as police break up pro-Palestine encampment

A month after pro-Palestine activists set up an encampment at the University of Michigan Diag, police cleared the protesters Tuesday.

Video posted by the organization behind the encampment, TAHRIR Coalition, showed police spraying pepper-spray as protesters and officers clashed in the Diag. It isn't clear if anyone was affected by the spray. The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office said four people were arrested for resisting and obstructing. 

According to the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety, about 50 students were at the encampment when police arrived. Police said the protesters were asked to leave voluntarily before being removed. 

"In recent days, encampment participants have also received numerous outreach attempts from U-M administrators and DPSS leadership, asking them to leave," campus police said in a statement. "The encampment posed safety risks, both to participants and the community at large, and its presence was in violation of policies and regulations. Its removal was important to help maintain the safety and security of the U-M campus community."


TAHRIR and the National Students for Justice in Palestine both called for students to head to the Diag, where they said police were "raiding" the encampment. 

While police pushed protesters away from the Diag, they took to marching through the streets of Ann Arbor. The Diag was blocked off by police tape and UHaul trucks were brought in as the encampment was cleared. 

"I'm still shaking. I feel like I'm still in shock, seeing people walk through, march through this safe space in riot gear," one person said. "With whatever bats and pepperspray and weapons they're ready to use against us, college students."

Students said they were in the middle of a religious service when police moved in.


The encampment was set up in April by students calling for the university to stop investing in Israel amid the war in Gaza. As police lined the Diag to block protesters, banners reading "Encampment for Gaza! Divest now!" still hung behind them.

University President Santa Ono released a statement:

"Moving forward, individuals will be welcome to protest as they always have at the University of Michigan, so long as those protests don't violate the rights of others and are consistent with university policies meant to ensure the safety of our community. To be clear, there is no place for violence or intimidation at the University of Michigan. Such behavior will not be tolerated, and individuals will be held accountable.

"We appreciate that different points of view will continue to be expressed on campus and in our community more broadly, and we are taking steps to broaden the dialogue around these critical matters. In the upcoming year, we will support multiple opportunities to discuss and debate complicated issues, including the war in the Middle East, and explore how universities can contribute to a common path forward in the "Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement."

"We must find productive ways to engage with one another. We must leverage facts and reason in a spirit of open debate and find ways to work toward solutions. If we can manage to do that here - a place that is home to some of the most brilliant minds in the country - then our state, nation, and world will continue to benefit from the diverse perspectives that our university brings together on the most important issues of our day."

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