CPD, Public Safety tear down DePaul protest encampment

Cops line the corner of Belden Ave. and Seminary Ave. after removing protestors from DePauls Quad in the early hours of May 16, 2024. The Quad is now closed until further notice
Cops line the corner of Belden Ave. and Seminary Ave. after removing protestors from DePaul’s Quad in the early hours of May 16, 2024. The Quad is now closed until further notice
Jake Cox

At 5:30 a.m. Thursday, more than 100 Chicago Police Department officers arrived at DePaul’s Quad, as instructed by the university, to dismantle the encampment on its 17th day. Officer Jon Hein, CPD chief of patrol, reported the arrest of a 21-year-old male and a 25-year-old female for “obstruction of traffic,” without specifying if they were students.

The Office of President Robert Manuel sent an email shortly after CPD arrived explaining that, “despite good faith intentions” during negotiations with the DePaul Divest Coalition, the encampment would be removed.

“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,” the email read. 

The email stated that DePaul received many “credible threats” to the encampment that also prompted its removal. 

“We had no choice but to act, before we lost the ability to provide for the safety of the Jewish members of our community, to protect those in the encampment, to preserve the rights of all other students and to maintain university operations,” the email said.

Upon arrival, CPD officers, who wore helmets and face shields and carried batons, tore down tents as students screamed and scrambled to gather belongings. About 20 chanting encampment members were told by officers to “Vacate DePaul property, or you are subject to arrest!”

The lingering pro-Palestinian protestors did so, as CPD officers advanced toward the intersection of Belden and Seminary avenues. 

Followed by 10 CPD officers, the remaining encampment members marched from the Quad’s north entrance down Kenmore Avenue to join others.

Midwest Corporation employees installed temporary fences at 7:30 a.m. at both north and south entrances of the Quad barring entry, shortly after DePaul employees were seen putting up closure signs.

Tensions arose between demonstrators and police officers as the various pro-Palestinain posters and art were torn down off the Fullerton-facing fence and discarded by DePaul employees. 

Officer Michael Neckerman of the CPD’s Critical Incident Response Team warned demonstrators to get out of the street, saying it was their “last warning” before arrest.

Officer Michael Neckerman of the CPD’s Critical Incident Response Team warned demonstrators to get out of the street, saying it was their “last warning” before arrest, on May 16, 2024. Protestors lined the north side of Fullerton Ave. (Jake Cox)

“I’ve been talking to you all day to get out of the street,” Neckerman shouted to demonstrators. “Please, let’s go.” 

Encampment media liaison Henna Ayesh told The DePaulia that demonstrators on the Quad were not given warning about the raid. 

“They didn’t even give students a chance to collect their belongings. Most of their stuff was thrown in the trash,” Ayesh said. 

Ayesh said she wasn’t present when officers arrived because she and some other demonstrators hadn’t anticipated a raid.

“DePaul told us in our negotiations that they were not going to call CPD. So it’s clear that they’re really good at lying,” Ayesh said. 

DePaul University spokespeople responded to The DePaulia’s request for comment by referring to Manuel’s most recent statement.

In his initial email, Manuel included a hyperlinked to the university’s leadership notes detailing “images, data and quotes that exemplify the escalation of the impact of the encampment on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Quad.”

The university received over “625 registered complaints from neighbors and community members related to the encampment, 34 reports of antisemitism and four credible threats of violence,” according to the website.

The encampment’s removal follows the university’s May 11 announcement that negotiations with organizers on the Quad reached an impasse.

After the eviction, about 200 former encampment members gathered near the intersection of Seminary and Fullerton by a gas station. They chanted at 15 or more CPD officers who formed a line and blocked protesters and others from the north entrance of the Quad.

Parveen Kaur Mundi, student body president, called university administration “a bunch of spineless cowards.” 

“With Vincentian personalism and dialogue, they would’ve had the good grace to let our encampment community members, including children and international students, know before they decided to send in the cops,” she told The DePaulia. 

Benjamin Meyer, a lawyer representing the encampment, told The DePaulia he was “really disappointed” that the university called in police.  

“There was a path forward to negotiations and DePaul unilaterally withdrew from negotiations on Saturday,” Meyer said. “The students even sent them a calendar invite asking them to come negotiate with him (Manuel) on Monday, and they refused and you see what the result of that is.”

The university maintains that negotiations ended in a “stalemate” and that it was not a unilateral withdrawal, as Meyer described. 

CPD held a press conference at the corner of Belden and Seminary at about 7:30 a.m. to address the ongoing situation on the Quad. 

Hein, the CPD chief of patrol, addressed the crowd of reporters as a “CAT Loader” scooped up leftover tarps and tents from the encampment in the background. 

Hein said DePaul administration and CPD issued multiple dispersal orders for those in the encampment to leave or be arrested. 

He said those encamped left the Quad voluntarily. 

A member of the DePaul Divest Coalition chants through a megaphone to the pro-Palestine protestors near the intersection of Seminary and Fullerton by a gas station May 16, 2024. Two people were arrested for “obstruction of traffic” during the disassembling of the encampment but were later released. (Claire Tweedie)

Hein maintained that there were no violent confrontations between CPD and demonstrators. However, The DePaulia witnessed a CPD officer shoving a demonstrator and removing her hijab.

CPD did not respond to The DePaulia’s request for more information on this event by the time of publication.

Ayesh, the encampment media liaison, confirmed this occurrence.

“One of (the people arrested) was a Muslim student, her hijab was taken off, and she wasn’t even a part of the encampment. She was just trying to get out of the way. Now, she’s currently detained,” Ayesh said. 

In a follow-up email from the Office of President Robert Manuel at 11:37 a.m. confirmed that “no one inside the encampment was arrested” and that the two other individuals were arrested by CPD “for obstructing traffic on Belden Avenue.”

The email reiterated that protestors were given the chance to leave voluntarily and said that any items left behind would be discarded.

Manuel said he believes the encampment started as a positive effort at peaceful protest but contended that it morphed into an “unsafe environment” that disrupted the university and the DePaul neighborhood. 

“While peaceful protest and dissension should continue, the encampment could not,” the second email concluded. 

Alderman Timmy Knudsen (43nd) said in a statement that his office is “in touch with university leadership and city officials and will keep residents updated” as more information becomes available. 

The email from President Manuel said the Quad and all other green spaces on the Lincoln Park Campus will be closed until further notice.

“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. DePaul will continue to investigate every reported complaint of harassment or discrimination that we receive resulting from the encampment or subsequent events,” the email read.

The email estimated the encampment caused close to $180,000 in damage to the Quad. 

Ayesh expressed sadness at the encampment’s dismantling but emphasized that the demonstrators’ fight is ongoing.

“The sentiment behind divestment is not going to leave with the tents,” she said. ”Whether they’re here or not, the students are here to stay. And that’s why we’re not going anywhere.” 


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