The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Students vow to continue pushing DePaul to divest from Israel after Gaza Solidarity Encampment was dismantled

Rodolfo Zagal
Student Protesters hold back the crowd from moving onto Fullerton Ave on Thursday, May 16, 2024. This was hours after CPD raided the DePaul encampment.

Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers raided the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment,’ on DePaul’s Quad at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, May 16. CPD blocked off the Quad, removed all protesters and prevented students from retrieving their belongings. 

The encampment at the DePaul Quad was the last one standing, marking a somber milestone for pro-Palestinian activists across Chicago. Established by the DePaul Divestment Coalition (DDC) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), students demanded that DePaul disclose investments and divest from companies with ties to Israel as the war in Gaza continues. 

Dali, a DePaul freshman who asked to be identified by their first name only for fear of repercussions, was an active member in the encampment. They say that their friends’ belongings were discarded as police officers and campus safety disassembled the encampment. 

“There was finally a sense of community and people were actually showing up for each other and to have it taken away. It’s absurd,” Dali said. 

Dali, a Mexican-American student from Texas, said they’ve felt an overall sense of isolation while attending a predominantly white institution like DePaul University. This feeling was heightened by the presence of CPD on campus to dismantle the encampment that had been active for 17 days. 

Protester waves a Palestinian flag in front of the police line on Fullerton Avenue on Thursday, May 16, 2024. (Rodolfo Zagal)

DePaul University President Robert L. Manuel sent out an email at 5:35 a.m. on Thursday during the raid. The email informed students of the police presence on campus and urged students to leave peacefully. 

The email stated that DePaul received many “credible threats” to the encampment that 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. 

In his initial email, Manuel included a collection of 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.

“The students leading this protest had lost control of the situation due to the influence of external entities,” according to the email. 

DePaul University has made a public statement to call for humanitarian aid in Gaza and the release of all hostages. Additionally, they’re “reviewing their investing practices and related portfolio across a variety of factors, including environmental, social and corporate governance issues among others,” the letter detailed.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an advocacy group involved in the encampment, has been protesting for divestment at DePaul for several years. This fight has lasted over a decade between the administration and students.

With the support of faculty and students, SJP passed the DePaul Divest referendum in 2014. This made DePaul’s financial statements for the 2014-2015 fiscal year public for a short time. However, DePaul has since restricted access to their financial statements, leading students to protest again. 

SJP staged a “Die-In” on March 4, 2024, outside a DePaul administration meeting. The group demanded that the university make its investment portfolio public again. Students laid down on the third floor at the Student Center wearing white T-shirts covered with red hand prints. 

Protest organizers, who chose not to be named, said the red handprints on their shirts symbolized the “blood on the hands of the university.” 

Students lie on the floor in a “Die-in” protest on March 4, 2024 on the third floor of the student center. Their position is an indication of the Palestinian lives lost in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. (Alyssa N. Salcedo )

Kristin Claes Mathews Senior Director of Strategic Communications responded on behalf of the university, commenting that DePaul supports the students’ rights to engage in speech and expression consistent with the values of academic freedom. However, the administration did not comment on whether protesters’ demands were met. 

Their demands were not met following the “Die-In” protest, according to SJP leaders, prompting them to put up the encampment on April 30. 

“These aren’t new demands. These are demands that they already knew about prior to all of this,” said Henna Ayesh, a DePaul sophomore and the media liaison for the encampment. “They’ve known about this for a couple of years because previous students have also been fighting for the same things that we have…This is why we’ve had to escalate it.” 

Following the encampment’s disassembly Thursday morning, student activist groups, including SJP, quickly banded together to continue to protest on Fullerton Avenue and around DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus. 

United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA) made a statement on Instagram saying: “We will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and demand that DePaul University divests from genocide and the Israeli War Machine.” 

The movement is mirroring the resilience of the Palestinian people by pushing against the university’s oppression, Ayesh said. SJP and other activist groups said on May 15, that they are not going to stop protesting until the university divests. 

Her grandfather visited the encampment and started crying, Ayesh said. Her parents also visited and were surprised by young people’s “drive and motivation to do what they have to do.” 

“While the tents have gone, the sentiment of divestment has not left with it. And this will not end until DePaul divests,” said Ayesh at the press conference preceding the rally on the evening of May 16.

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