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Pro-Palestinian protest group at Johns Hopkins University says agreement not reached: 'We are not leaving'

Pro-Palestinian protest group at Johns Hopkins University says no agreement reached
Pro-Palestinian protest group at Johns Hopkins University says no agreement reached 04:05

BALTIMORE -- A group that organized a pro-Palestinian protest and encampment at Johns Hopkins University says they aren't leaving until demands are met.

Hopkins Justice Collective tells WJZ that no agreement has been reached despite an opposing statement from Johns Hopkins. 

"The Palestine Solidarity Encampment never broke," Hopkins Justice Collective said in a statement. "It has been continuously held overnight by a brave team. We have regrouped and re-strategized overnight and remain committed to our demands. We are not leaving until demands are met."

Hundreds of protesters took over a grassy area on the Baltimore school's campus Monday, which continued overnight into Tuesday.

Tents have been set out and signs placed around their encampment.

Johns Hopkins officials told WJZ that an agreement was reached and the encampment was to wrap up around 1 a.m. Tuesday, but the school will allow protestors to return during the day to continue standing in solidarity with Gaza and joining other college students nationwide calling for disinvestment from Israel.

"At Hopkins, we have longstanding policies and guidelines to support demonstration and free expression," Johns Hopkins said in a statement. "These guidelines were developed collaboratively with our students and reflect a mutual commitment to the flow of open, vibrant expression that is so essential to our academic community, and to preventing harassment, discrimination, or intimidation. Our priority today was to accommodate a protest while maintaining a safe environment for our community; the peaceful resolution of today's events speaks to the value of these principles. After meeting for several hours, President Ron Daniels and Provost Ray Jayawardhana and student participants came to a mutual agreement that the encampment would disperse, and the peaceful protest would be allowed to continue from 10am-8pm. We look forward to continuing dialogue with our students."

However, pro-Palestinian protesters say they rejected the compromise.

"We're peaceful students, but we want to make our voice heard," Johns Hopkins student Angela Wang said.

Johns Hopkins told WJZ on Tuesday that protesters took down their entire encampment, except for a few items left overnight, and dispersed following "discussion and negotiation with university leaders."

A handful of people, whose identities were unknown to the school, refused to leave, according to a JHU spokesperson.

"Having people remaining outdoors and camping overnight on our campus is inherently unsafe for the participants and the community," a JHU spokesperson said. "JHU will continue to work with student protesters to ensure free expression and compliance with our policies, codes, and agreements, and as noted in our community message to students last week, we will enforce our rules.

"We have been clear that the consequences of violating our policies and creating unsafe conditions include academic discipline, which is determined by University officials, and trespass, which is handled by local law enforcement."

Demonstrators are calling for Johns Hopkins University to disinvest from Israel and disclose all financial ties to Israel as outrage grows over the mounting death toll in Gaza.

Hopkins is being pressured to cut ties with Tel-Aviv University in Israel, where a two-year Master of Arts program partnership was established in recent years.    

"I think it's good that they're standing up for what they believe in and that they're also able to do it here," student Lucas Simpson said. "I know at other colleges there is a lot of tension around it."

Hopkins Justice Collective members declined to be interviewed on camera and told those in attendance not to speak with the media.

Over 100 demonstrators, most whom appeared to be students, stood with Palestine at a peaceful rally Monday on the Homewood campus in North Baltimore. Then, joining universities across the country, they set up tents for an encampment to pressure the institution to disinvest from Israel as outrage grows over the mounting death toll in Gaza.

No protesters have been arrested, according to a university spokesperson. 

Colleges differ in approach to encampments

Universities have differed in their approach on how to clear out encampments as commencement ceremonies near. Some institutions are continuing negotiations, while others are turning to force and ultimatums that have resulted in clashes with police.

Dozens of people were arrested Monday during protests at universities in Texas, Utah and Virginia, while Columbia said hours before a takeover of Hamilton Hall that it had started suspending students.

Violence broke out this past weekend at UCLA in California where pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups breached a physical barrier. More than 100 protesters were arrested last week on the campus of Columbia University in New York City, where the encampment demonstrations began.

Northwestern University near Chicago said it reached an agreement with students and faculty representing the majority of protesters. It allows peaceful demonstrations through the end of spring classes, but only one aid tent may remain mounted.

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