Pro-Palestine protesters disperse from KU campus after police arrive; 3 arrested

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Post last updated at 10:10 a.m. Friday, May 10:

Law enforcement threatened to arrest protesters after a group of about 100 gathered on KU’s campus in solidarity with Palestine Thursday night, continuing calls for the university to divest from Israel.

The protesters had prepared to hold their ground as administrators warned they’d be removed if they were still there after 10 p.m.; however, they said if police used force, they would not resist.

“We’re remaining peaceful,” said Jen, a media liaison for the encampment who asked to be referred to by their first name to protect their safety. “We’re here simply chanting and protesting. We are simply here exercising our First Amendment, so there should be no reason for force to be exercised by the police.”

Around 11:15 p.m. Thursday, law enforcement arrived and told them to leave the encampment on the lawn in front of Fraser Hall or they would be considered trespassing and they would be arrested.

Most of the group ultimately started marching down Jayhawk Boulevard and headed to Anschutz Library, which is open overnight.

A little after midnight, at least three protesters appeared to be getting arrested from the library. They were escorted out with their hands behind their backs and appeared to be handcuffed. They were placed in a law enforcement van. According to the Douglas County jail booking log, all three were arrested by KU police on suspicion of criminal trespassing. All three are also current KU students.

The group appeared to disperse around the time of the arrests. Law enforcement officers were still stationed across campus around 12:30 a.m. Friday.

Earlier Thursday evening, university administrators hand-delivered a letter to protesters who are part of KU Students for Justice in Palestine. 

The letter gave notice that the encampment site must be completely cleared out by 10 p.m. Thursday and that any person who remained on the lawn in front of Fraser Hall with items identified as “camping paraphernalia” would be removed by police.

Camping paraphernalia is defined in the letter as “furniture, bedding, tarps” and other items.

“If there are breaches or policy violations, we will take quick action using the necessary resources and reserve the right to further pursue formal discipline under the applicable university codes and policies,” the letter says. “Additionally, KU SJP bears responsibility for any and all actions of non-KU affiliated individuals who join your assembly.”

Students first set up their encampment on May 1, calling on the university to disclose and divest any financial connections with Israel amid monthslong violence in Gaza that has killed tens of thousands of people. More than 100 people were present that day and the demonstration remained mostly peaceful.

They returned to the encampment the next morning but eventually transitioned to chanting and marching to Chancellor Douglas Girod’s office and other campus locations. More than 100 Lawrence High School students joined for part of the march. 

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On Tuesday, they reinstated the encampment and resumed their demonstration, several students staying overnight.

Protesters said that Tuesday evening, more than 40 officers from campus police and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office as well as Lawrence, Baldwin City and Eudora police departments showed up in response to the university’s call. Law enforcement from the same agencies showed up again Thursday night. 

Jen said the police took food, water, medicine kits, masks, lawn chairs, tents, artwork and other supplies from the encampment Tuesday, citing them as unpermitted because camping isn’t allowed on campus after 10 p.m. One person was arrested on suspicion of interference with law enforcement.

Their supplies are currently being held in the campus police’s evidence department, according to Jen. Police told protesters they probably won’t get their belongings back until next week because they have to take inventory and said protesters also need to make a record of what’s missing.

Protesters had also built a small memorial for those who have died.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

“We were setting stones and memorializing the martyred. We were literally grieving as Rafah was being bombed, we were setting stones and grieving them, those that are martyred,” Jen said. “And they walked up, and that was when all the chaos had started.”

Law enforcement again took cases of water from a large stack the protesters had accumulated around midnight Friday. They also took tents and other items from the site.

Law enforcement also packed up the tables and chairs that had been set up on Fraser’s lawn.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Law enforcement officers stand at the site where pro-Palestine protesters had set up an encampment and memorial, Friday, May 10, 2024.

The letter from administrators said KU SJP’s demonstration had become a threat to commencement because more visitors are coming to campus for graduation activities, which began Thursday.

“Over the past week, the University has allowed KU SJP to exercise its right to free speech,” the letter says. “Student Affairs staff have repeatedly ensured KU SJP was aware of relevant policies and advised when the organization was in violation of these policies. The student organization has not reciprocated our good faith efforts.”

Jen said that “We need to remember that there are no universities currently standing in Gaza.”

“This Sunday’s commencement, and the university is making a big deal out of it. There’s no commencement in Gaza,” they said.

Find out what’s really going on in your town. Read The Lawrence Times.

Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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Pro-Palestine protesters disperse from KU campus after police arrive; 3 arrested

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Law enforcement threatened to arrest protesters after a group of about 100 gathered on KU’s campus in solidarity with Palestine Thursday night, continuing calls for the university to divest from Israel. It appeared three protesters were arrested.


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