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Police take down pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University

Pro-Palestinian protesters march after police take down DePaul University encampment
Pro-Palestinian protesters march after police take down DePaul University encampment 02:50

CHICAGO (CBS) — Police removed a pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University Thursday morning, but protests continued outside the quad where the encampment had been located on the Lincoln Park campus.

It was just after 5:30 a.m. when chaos and confusion swept through the encampment. A student who filmed the raid by the Chicago Police Department provided the footage to CBS 2. Students tried to block the officers' entry, but the officers pushed through.

In the student's video, someone can also be heard running throughout the campground, waking others up and warning them about the situation unfolding. Police officers moved fast, dismantling tents, ripping down signs, and clearing the area.

DePaul University President Robert Manuel gave law enforcement the green light Wednesday night, after deeming the situation on campus "unsafe." Some students told CBS 2 they were left traumatized.

After the raid, students quickly regrouped, taking their movement across the street to a gas station.

Chicago Police said a man and woman were arrested outside the encampment for obstruction of traffic. But no arrests were made at the encampment itself during the raid.

Police taking down pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University 01:12

In a statement to university students and staff, President Manuel said University Public Safety and Chicago Police were disassembling the encampment after efforts to reach a "shared resolution" with the DePaul Divestment Coalition were unsuccessful.  

"Every person currently in the encampment will be given the opportunity to leave peacefully and without being arrested. I urge all there to leave peacefully and return home," Manuel said.

The statement also warned of the quad's closure. 

"Anyone who tries to breach the fence around the quad or any of the green spaces on the Lincoln Park Campus will be trespassed, arrested, and suspended," Manuel said in the written statement. "DePaul will continue to investigate every reported complaint of harassment or discrimination that we receive resulting from the encampment or subsequent events."

DePaul reports weapons found at encampment site, threats and hate speech

The university outlined what it considered "threats to safety and disruption of campus operations" on its website, highlighting altercations and criminal activity on campus.

Manuel said weapons were recovered from the encampment site during the tent removal. He said the weapons found included knives, a pellet gun, and other "improvised weapons." Photos of knives and the pellet gun recovered were shared by the university. 

Also documented were boards on the ground with long nails or screws sticking out that the university said were set up as traps along the fence that separates the quad from Fullerton Avenue.

DePaul also reported more than 1,000 complaints altogether, including more than 625 registered complaints from neighbors and community members, and more than 425 from students, faculty and staff, and parents.

These complaints included one death threat, four credible threats of violence, 12 incidents of criminal property damage, and 34 reports of antisemitism, among other issues raised.

DePaul reported the encampment was to blame for numerous safety violations and instances of property damage at the university – including spray paint on buildings and doors, etching on glass and windows, dumpsters being used to block entrances and exits, the John T. Richardson Library being chained shut and locked, and removal of safety grates.

Altogether, DePaul reported, the damage to university property totaled $180,000. DePaul also noted that 45 university events were canceled because of the protest, and nearby Oscar Mayer Elementary School canceled recess and other outdoor activities.

The noise emanating from the campsite was also a major problem for community members.

DePaul also shared videos and social media posts – including an Instagram post from Sunday showing protesters chanting in praise of Hamas and the Oct. 7 attacks at the intersection of Lincoln and Fullerton avenues and Halsted Street. The video claimed these protesters had walked over to the encampment to confront a group of Jewish community members who had gathered for a Mother's Day bake sale.

Another social media video shows a Jewish woman in the area of the encampment being told by a protester to "go to Poland." The woman who posted the video wrote, "yelling this at American Jewish students (many of whom have no connection to Poland at all) isn't a valid criticism of Israel, in case this seemed like a grey area."

DePaul also outlined numerous complaints of harassment at the encampment and of Jewish community members feeling unsafe.

DePaul University orders removal of pro-Palestinian encampment 02:46

When the encampment was removed, a sense of relief came over some neighbors like Arden Joy – who is Jewish, and who said the past few weeks of her life have been traumatizing for her and her family.

"You know, the day that the encampment went up, one of the first signs that went up said, 'Jewish safety cannot be guaranteed until Palestine is free,' and so immediately, I knew that we weren't safe," Joy said.

Others in the neighborhood also characterized the encampment as intimidating.

"We are Jewish, and we are pro-Israel, and also feel for the lives that are being lost in Gaza right now," said Becca Lustig.

"I live a few blocks away, and I don't necessarily feel safe around people who are protesting, you know, against me," added Sam Bakal.

Sheffield Neighbors Association President Brian Comer said the protest encampment was growing more dangerous as time went on.

"The longer it stayed, the larger a magnet it became for something bad to happen," Comer said, "and we did not want that."

Meanwhile, student activists maintain that they were the ones targeted – for exercising their right to protest.

"I've seen people being shoved around by counterprotesters, while CPD, DePaul administration, and DePaul Public Safety did absolutely nothing," said lead protest marshal Simran Bains. "I think that what they've been trying to do since this encampment started is blame us for the things that people are doing to us."

The DePaul chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine also accused the administration at DePaul of "maligning" student protesters – claiming that the reports that improvised devices intended to cause harm were "false," and that the knives found at the site were for food preparation in a kitchen tent.

Chicago Police take down pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University 03:02

Chicago police response 

Chicago police addressed the public Thursday morning and said there had been "no confrontations" between officers and protesters, and no resistance by the protesters.

"As the approach occurred, voluntary compliance – all individuals who were inside the encampment voluntarily left, said Chicago Police Chief of Patrol Jon Hein.

Videographers from the Chicago Department of Law accompanied police during the intervention, Hein said.

Hein declined to comment on whether there was a particular threat before the raid.

On the decision by the university to seal off the quad, Hein said, "DePaul University is private property, so DePaul University will take control of their own property."

Chicago police provide update after removal of DePaul pro-Palestinian encampment 01:34

Protesters vow to regroup and press on

A student said organizers are working to regroup after the removal of the encampment.  

"We have to find all of our people because the way that they went about dispersing us meant that lots of people were going out different exits," said Bains. "People were just trying to make sure that they weren't accidentally getting in someone's way to cause physical harm."

At one point Thursday, protesters zeroed in on the student center on campus – but public safety officers quickly locked the building down. Tensions late Thursday were still running high on campus after the early-morning raid.

On Thursday evening, a large group of students and other pro-Palestinian supporters marched through the Lincoln Park neighborhood. They denounced the university and Chicago Police for dismantling the encampment.

"The administration today had an opportunity to do business differently – and instead chose to do something less than great," DePaul student body president Parveen Mundi said at a rally Thursday evening.

"Jews 4 Justice categorically condemns DePaul University's violent decision to raid the DePaul liberation zone," said Ethan Schatz of the group Jews 4 Justice.

The encampment had been in place since April 30, as protesters demanded the school cut ties with Israel. Protesters joined the nationwide college protests in support of Palestinians amid the war in Gaza

On May 12, protesters said they had reached a stalemate with university leaders.

Protests continue after police clear DePaul protest encampment 02:47

Other campus protests 

An encampment on the Evanston campus at Northwestern University was voluntarily taken down after an agreement was reached with the university. On May 7, University of Chicago Police intervened to take down an encampment on the Main Quad at that university's Hyde Park campus after an impasse was also reached between the university and protesters.

Graduation ceremonies at DePaul are scheduled for Saturday, June 15, and Sunday, June 16; the College of Law ceremony is scheduled for Saturday.

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