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Chicago police have closed off the campus quad after dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University in Chicago, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Chicago police have closed off the campus quad after dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University in Chicago, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Teresa Crawford/AP)

CHICAGO — Police began dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment early Thursday at DePaul University in Chicago, hours after the school’s president told students to leave the area or face arrest.

Officers and workers in yellow vests cleared out tents and camping equipment at the student encampment, leaving behind yellow squares of dead or dying grass where the tents had stood. Front-loaders were being used to remove the camping equipment.

Just across the street from where the encampment was spread across a grassy expanse of DePaul’s campus known as “The Quad,” a few dozen protesters stood along a sidewalk in front of a service station, clapping their hands in unison as an apparent protest leader paced back and forth before them, speaking into a bullhorn.

All of the protesters at the encampment “voluntarily left” the area when police arrived early Thursday, said Jon Hein, chief of patrol for the Chicago Police Department.

“There were no confrontations and there was no resistance,” he said at a news briefing. “As we approached, all the subjects voluntarily left the area.”

Hein said, however, that two people, a male and female in their 20s, were arrested outside the encampment “for obstruction of traffic.”

Protesters rally on Fullerton Avenue while crews disassemble the pro-Palestinian encampment in the quad at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus in Chicago, Thursday, May 16, 2024.

Protesters rally on Fullerton Avenue while crews disassemble the pro-Palestinian encampment in the quad at DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus in Chicago, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

DePaul President Robert Manuel said in a statement that one of those arrested is a current DePaul student and the second is a former student. He added that no injuries were reported to the university.

The move to clear the campus comes less than a week after the school’s president said public safety was at risk.

The university on Saturday said it had reached an “impasse” with the school’s protesters, leaving the future of their encampment on the Chicago campus unclear. Most of DePaul’s commencement ceremonies will be held the June 15-16 weekend.

In a statement then, Manuel and Provost Salma Ghanem said they believe that students intended to protest peacefully, but “the responses to the encampment have inadvertently created public safety issues that put our community at risk.”

Efforts to resolve the differences with DePaul Divestment Coalition over the past 17 days were unsuccessful, Manuel said in a statement sent to students, faculty and staff Thursday morning.

“I understand that the last 17 days have been stressful for many, not only within our campus, but also for those who live and work in our neighboring community,” Manuel said later Thursday in a statement. “We are saddened that the situation came to the point where law enforcement intervention was necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all — both within and outside the encampment.”

Students at many college campuses this spring set up similar encampments, calling for their schools to cut ties with Israel and businesses that support it, to protest lsrael’s actions in the war with Hamas. The protests began as schools were winding up their spring semesters and are now holding graduation ceremonies.

Police wrestle a pro-Palestinian protester to the ground to put wrist restraints on him at the University of California, Irvine, after police began to move protesters and an encampment off the quad, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Irvine, Calif.

Police wrestle a pro-Palestinian protester to the ground to put wrist restraints on him at the University of California, Irvine, after police began to move protesters and an encampment off the quad, Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Irvine, Calif. (Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register via AP)

Separately, 50 people were arrested at University of California, Irvine on Wednesday, university spokesperson Tom Vasich said in an email on Thursday morning. A few were arrested for trespassing, but a majority were arrested for failure to disperse after a direct police order, Vasich said. The booking process began on campus and those arrested were taken to the Orange County jail, where booking and processing were completed. They were then released, he said.

Chancellor Howard Gillman issued a statement late Wednesday saying he was planning to allow the peaceful encampment to remain on campus even though it violated university policies, but the school called in police after a small group barricaded themselves inside a campus lecture hall, supported by a large group of community members rallying outside.

He said the group transformed what had been a manageable situation into one that required police response and demanded to oversee many elements of university operations.

“Most importantly, their assault on the academic freedom rights of our faculty and the free speech rights of faculty and students was appalling,” Gillman said in the statement.

He said he remained committed to protecting the rights of all community members to express their views.

Also Wednesday, 11 members of a group protesting at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville who did not vacate the area despite repeated warnings were arrested for trespassing, the university said in a statement. Those arrested included three students and eight people who are not affiliated with the university. Any students who were arrested will also be referred to student conduct, officials said.

“The University of Tennessee respects individual’s rights to free speech and free expression and is committed to managing the campus for all,” the university said in the statement. “We will continue to be guided by the law and university policy, neutral of viewpoint.”

Tensions at DePaul flared the previous weekend when counterprotesters showed up to the campus in the city’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and prompted Chicago police to intervene.

The student-led DePaul Divestment Coalition, who are calling on the university to divest from Israel, set up the encampment April 30. The group alleged university officials walked away from talks and tried to force students into signing an agreement, according to a student statement late Saturday.

Henna Ayesh, a Palestinian student who’s a member of the coalition, criticized the police removal of the encampment as “shameful” in a statement sent Thursday by the group.

“It is shameful that DePaul chose violence rather than allowing students the right to protest our tuition money funding a genocide that is directly killing and displacing our families,” Ayesh said.

DePaul is on the city’s North Side. Last week, police removed a similar encampment at the University of Chicago on the city’s South Side.

The Associated Press has recorded at least 80 incidents since April 18 where arrests were made at campus protests across the U.S. More than 2,960 people have been arrested on the campuses of 60 colleges and universities. The figures are based on AP reporting and statements from universities and law enforcement agencies.

Associated Press reporter Christopher L. Keller contributed from Albuquerque, New Mexico

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