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Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy University of Chicago campus building

Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy University of Chicago's Institute for Politics
Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy University of Chicago's Institute for Politics 02:34

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Pro-Palestinian protesters occupied a University of Chicago campus building Friday afternoon and evening, as Alumni weekend began on campus.

The protesters entered and occupied the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, 5707 S. Woodlawn Ave. Organizers calling themselves UChi Occupation said the Institute of Politics was the first college building to be occupied in Chicago in connection with the widespread campus protests.

The Chicago Maroon student newspaper reported the students brought chairs inside the building, locked doors, and spray-painted security cameras. CBS 2 was not immediately able to confirm the information.

Demonstrators were inside the building for some time before the University of Chicago police cleared it out. Chicago Police also responded to the scene.

But the protests lasted hours. The protesters were on the front steps, inside, and even on top of the building.

A banner unfurled in front of the building proclaimed that the Institute of Politics was now named the "Casbah Bassel Al-Araj," referring to a Palestinian writer and activist who was killed during a shootout with an Israeli counterterrorism unit during a raid in the West Bank.  

To its left, another banner unfurled from the front porch read: "1. Free Palestine, 2. Abolish the University, 3. Land Back, 4. F**k Gentrification, 5. F**k 12 [police]."

A protester later raised a Palestinian flag on the roof of the porch.

Organizers continue their calls for the university to end partnerships with Israeli corporations and politicians.

"I believe it's important for alumni to stand with the students," said Patrick McWilliams, who said he graduated from the U of C and was back for Alumni Weekend.

McWilliams spent the first night of Alumni Weekend protesting for the Palestinian cause with students and other alums.

"We join their demands to divest, to disclose, and to repair, and to stop their financial and political ties to Israel," he said. "We are going to withhold our donations, withhold our support for this university."

The Maroon reported later Friday night, some protesters carried an effigy of University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos to the University President's House, 5855 S. University Ave., where the effigy was placed on a tree.

In a news release, the University of Chicago said:

"At approximately 4:40 p.m. Friday, a group of masked protesters unlawfully occupied the Institute of Politics building on South Woodlawn Ave. at the University of Chicago. Protesters attempted to bar the entrance, damaged University property and ignored directives from UCPD officers to clear the way. UCPD officers were able to enter the building and the protesters inside the building exited. 

"The University of Chicago is fundamentally committed to upholding the rights of protesters to express a wide range of views. At the same time, University policies make it clear that protests cannot jeopardize public safety, disrupt the University's operations, or involve the destruction of property. "

A counter-protester spoke against the protest to CBS 2 Friday evening, saying it amounted to intimidation.

"I also don't think that this is the way to go. I don't think intimidating Jewish students Is the way to go," she said. "As much as they have a right to say what they believe, I have a right to say what I believe."

The protesters vowed to set up camp and sleep outside the building Friday night.

Protest comes 10 days after Main Quad encampment was taken down

Dozens of protesters also rallied on campus earlier Friday afternoon. Many smeared paint on their hands to symbolize Palestinian bloodshed.

Alumni Weekend at UChicago features College class reunions – the first reunion for the Class of 2023 and others going back in multiples of five years – as well as panels and lectures, tours of campus venues, and other events.

Last week, University of Chicago police took down a pro-Palestinian protest encampment on campus. The intervention occurred around 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 7, clearing away tents that had been set up for nine days.

In an email to the university community as the encampment came down, Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen and Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Eric Heath wrote: "Since the encampment began last Monday, the University has provided the greatest possible leeway for freedom of expression, carefully monitoring the growing number of serious disruptions, policy violations, and safety hazards that the occupation has caused."

The email continued, "The encampment violated the University's commitment to free expression by monopolizing the center of campus – entirely obstructing physical access to a large part of the Quad, disrupting classes in nearby buildings, and contributing to an increasing unsafe environment of confrontation, particularly the events of last Friday."

The university said fair warning was given to those sleeping in tents – with UCPD officers and other staff members directing protesters to leave ahead of the police intervention, and warning that those who refused to do so could be arrested.

But some protesters said there was not such a warning, and organizers last week accused police of intentionally carrying out a raid while protesters were sleeping, and using excessive force on protesters.

Students at several universities across the U.S. have demanded their schools disclose their investments in companies with ties to Israel, such as weapons manufacturers, and end such investments. A similar encampment at DePaul University was taken down by Chicago Police on Thursday.

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