University Of Washington President Calls For Pro-Palestinian Tent Camp To Break Up After Antisemitic Graffiti Found On Campus

Demonstrators rally May 7 at a protest encampment at the University of Washington in Seattle in support of Palestinians in Gaza. (David Ryder/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

By Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

(CNN) — Pro-Palestinian encampments have been cleared from more US college campuses as school officials have called in law enforcement in recent weeks to quell mounting demonstrations over the institutions’ ties to Israel amid its military action in Gaza. Here are the latest developments:

After protests escalated at the University of Washington – with “offensive graffiti across multiple buildings all over campus, some quite clearly both antisemitic and violent” – the school’s president is calling again for the voluntary dismantling of a pro-Palestinian encampment on the Seattle campus.

Students and faculty on Wednesday discovered the graffiti, which has “creat(ed) an unwelcome and fearful environment for many students, faculty and staff, especially those who are Jewish,” President Ana Mari Cauce said later that day in a statement, calling the situation “untenable.”

Cauce asked for the tent camp to break up, echoing her entreaty last week to demonstrators “to dismantle the encampment voluntarily for everyone’s safety.”

“Much to my dismay, given the relatively cordial tone of many of our discussions, the representatives also said the new graffiti is an intentional escalation to compel the University to agree to their demands,” she said Wednesday, adding university officials “have engaged sincerely and openly.”

Among protesters’ “escalating demands” is “a new department that would have an ‘anti-Zionist’ litmus test for faculty hiring,” Cauce said in the statement. “Many of these demands, especially the most recent, are contrary to academic freedom and/or to state or federal law.”

“While I strongly support free speech and peaceful protest, I also strongly support the rights of all our community members to live, learn and work without fear,” she said. “The University’s response to students’ calls for change will not be based on an encampment.”

At least a dozen protesters at UC Irvine detained: Classes at the University of California, Irvine, are remote Thursday after law enforcement personnel used zip ties to restrain demonstrators the prior evening at the University of California, Irvine, before escorting them away from a pro-Palestinian protest encampment and toward a parking lot.

“A group of several hundred protestors entered the UC Irvine campus and began surrounding” the school’s Physical Sciences Lecture Hall at around 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, the school said in an emergency update.

The university put out a mutual aid call to local law enforcement and got help from the Irvine Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Department, it said. Authorities cleared what looked like at least half of student protesters at the encampment, aerial footage from CNN affiliate KABC showed.

Pro-Palestinian protesters had set up a campus encampment on April 29, when the university also called in local law enforcement. Days later, the school’s chancellor said the university would continue to negotiate with student protesters demanding their university cut financial ties to Israel over the nation’s military action in Gaza.

Columbia University president sends message to graduates: Following the cancellation of the university-wide commencement ceremony after weeks of Gaza war protests, the president of New York’s Columbia University sent a message to graduates, wishing “that the challenges you faced during this difficult era will inspire you and make you stronger.”

Columbia cited security concerns in canceling the large event, a school official told CNN, and instead is holding smaller ones.

“I know that the last few weeks have been very difficult, and I am sorry that we were unable to celebrate your commencement in the traditional manner,” President Minouche Shafik said Wednesday in her message to grads.

Acknowledging “an extraordinary and tragic set of events” in the Middle East and that “as a great university, we must engage with these issues,” the polarization at Columbia has caused conflict on campus, she said.

“Canceling the traditional commencement ceremony was one of the toughest calls in a year of many tough calls,” Shafik wrote in an op-ed in the Columbia Daily Spectator.

Shafik’s top priority has been the safety of students, faculty and staff, she said.

“The conflict between the rights of pro-Palestinian protesters and the impact that their protests have had on some members of our Jewish community is what makes this moment singularly fraught,” she said.

Police remove protest encampment at DePaul University: Police in riot gear moved protesters away and dismantled tents Thursday morning at a pro-Palestinian protest encampment at DePaul University in Chicago, video from CNN affiliate WLS shows.

Two protesters accused of blocking nearby traffic were arrested, school spokesperson Russell Dorn told CNN, adding no arrests were made in the campus quad.

The decision to dismantle the encampment came after “good faith efforts” to negotiate with organizers, DePaul President Robert Manuel said.

“From the beginning of the encampment, I have said that we would protect free speech and the ability to dissent until it either prevented us from carrying out the operations of our university or threatened the safety of the members of our community,” Manuel said in an open letter to students and employees. “I am deeply saddened to say the encampment has crossed that line.”

University buildings have been vandalized with graffiti, and the cost to repair the physical damage to the quad, which will be “closed to everyone” until further notice, appears to be nearly $180,000, Manuel said in his letter.

The DePaul Divestment Coalition – a multiethnic, multifaith student group – has been calling on DePaul to “divest from killing and harm abroad” since its encampment was set up April 30.

“DePaul’s administration chose to use violence to disperse the encampment and unilaterally withdrew from negotiations,” Benjamin Meyer, an attorney representing the coalition said. “The students sent administration a calendar invite for a meeting on Monday, in which none of the administrators attended.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

CNN’s Andy Rose, Chris Boyette and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.

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