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Police clear Wayne State pro-Palestinian camp

Critics of Wayne State’s connections to Israel amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas continued to protest Thursday morning, even after the university dismantled a pro-Palestinian camp erected since late last week.

After the camp was removed around 5:30 a.m. Thursday, a group of about 50 protesters gathered on the sidewalk of Anthony Wayne Drive and Williams Mall to continue chanting, standing in front of more than a dozen Wayne State Police officers with riot gear. The group began peacefully protesting around the block of the encampment on the State Hall lawn at 8:15 a.m.

Four protesters were detained, including one protester who broke away from the group and attempted to remove the police tape. It was unclear why the other three were detained.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who represents Detroit, joined protesters around 8:30 a.m. and angrily confronted a police officer for ripping off a female protester’s hijab, or headscarf.

“Did you guys tear off your hijab? They are children! she told campus police. “…No training will teach you to keep your scarf on. Know the diversity of your campus.”

The camp’s removal came a week after it was set up on May 23 with about a dozen tents. University officials said it presented “legal, health and safety and operational challenges.”

Wayne State President Kimberly Andrews Espy said university police announced to the occupants around 5:30 a.m. that they should gather their belongings and leave. Police told the occupants to leave and then used “an amplified sound system” to ensure the announcement was heard, a university spokesperson said.

“After continued consultation with the Board of Governors, university leaders and community leaders, and after many good faith efforts to reach a different conclusion, this was the right time to take this necessary step,” Espy said in a statement on Thursday. tomorrow.

Aside from the legal and safety issues it posed, “the camp also created an environment of exclusion, one in which some members of our university community felt unwelcome and unable to fully participate in university life,” Espy said in his statement.

But the occupiers accused university officials of dismantling the camp when they were “most vulnerable.” And several said they will continue to raise questions about the university’s connections to Israel.

“We’re students here, we care about this university, we want it to grow, we want it to expand ethically,” said Lana Kadi, a 20-year-old WSU student. “Why are you afraid of your students? Why don’t you talk to your students?”

Sahar Faraj, another Palestinian protester and Wayne State student, encouraged protesters to continue scrutinizing school officials with direct ties to Israel. She said protesters continue to demand that university administrators disclose the school’s investments in companies with ties to Israel.

Retired Camp

When the camp was set up on May 23, the occupants promised to stay there until university officials met their demands. They included: fully disclosing their investments, including investments in index funds not included in public reporting; its divestment from the SSgA S&P 500 index, which includes weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman and General Dynamics; ensure that university police officers will not travel to Israel as they did in 2019; and develop policies to protect student protesters.

They also wanted the university to establish legal and financial protections for Palestinian students, especially those with international visas; create scholarships and fellowships for Palestinians and Gazans to study at WSU; and call for a ceasefire in Gaza as a university.

By 7:40, there was no trace of the camp on the State Hall lawn except for a painted rock that said “Free Palestine.”

Luay Abuelenain, 55, of Dearborn, said his niece, wife and daughter were detained by Wayne State Police after the camp was removed. Her niece is the one whose hijab was ripped off.

“No one is listening,” he said. “When will it be enough?”

Remote operations

Meanwhile, Espy said campus operations will remain remote Thursday.

“We will announce tomorrow’s operations later today,” he said.

The Wayne State camp was established just days after a similar camp at the University of Michigan created in late April was pulled.

Espy said university leaders contacted camp leaders and emphasized that the group was trespassing.

“In every conversation, we reiterated that the occupiers were invading university property and asked that the camp be removed,” he said in a statement. “No individual or group is permitted to claim campus property for their own use and deny others access to that property.”

On Tuesday, Wayne State University officials said the school was shifting to remote operations effective immediately because the pro-Palestinian encampment posed “an ongoing public safety issue.” Protesters called the move “ridiculous.”

On Monday, Tlaib asked the university president and the Board of Governors to negotiate an agreement.

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X: @CharlesERamirez

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