Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Chicago: UCPD brutalizes students, alumni protesting for Palestine during graduation

By staff

Pro-Palestine protest at University of Chicago graduation.  | Fight Back! News/staff

Chicago, IL – Hundreds of students and faculty at the University of Chicago walked out of graduation ceremonies on Saturday, June 1. They were demanding that the university disclose its investments, divest from arms manufacturers and Israeli companies, and stop withholding the degrees of student pro-Palestine protesters.

The University of Chicago Police Department (UCPD) responded to the protest by pepper spraying, detaining, shoving and mocking protesters directly outside the home of university President Paul Alivisatos.

The protest was called by student organizers in response to the university withholding degrees from four graduating seniors who had participated in the encampment on the quad in early May. The students were told they had been accused of “disruptive conduct.”

“There is no class of 2024 in Gaza because Israel has destroyed all the universities,” Youssef Hasweh, one of the students whose degree is being withheld, said to the crowd gathered in the rain just north of the main quad where the commencement ceremony was taking place.

“Our graduation is not more important than the tens of thousands of people being killed in Gaza while our university helps pay for the bombs,” Hasweh continued.

Withholding degrees is one of many attempts by the university to repress its students. On November 9 last year, 26 students and two faculty were arrested at a sit-in in a university building. Their charges were dropped after an outpouring of community support. On May 7 this year, UCPD violently tore down the student encampment on the quad.

Protesters chanted “Over 40,000 dead, you're arresting kids instead” and “UChicago you can't hide, you invest in genocide” among other chants demanding divestment from apartheid Israel and an end to repression by the university.

The crowd marched towards the main quad and stopped at a barricade put up by UCPD and Chicago police officers next to the home of UChicago President Paul Alivisatos. During an hourlong standoff, police pepper sprayed indiscriminately into the crowd of students, alumni, faculty and community members. Police also detained two people behind the barricade.

“UCPD acts like an occupying army on the Southside of Chicago in a similar way to how the Israeli occupation forces act in Palestine, so this violence is not surprising,” said Kobi Guillory, a UChicago alum who was one of a dozen protesters pepper sprayed by UCPD.

The protesters were undeterred by the brutality of campus police. They marched to one of the ceremonies happening south of the main quad and continued chanting. Before dispersing with a message that protests would continue, the marchers chanted “I believe that we will win!”

#ChicagoIL #AntiWarMovement #International #MiddleEast #Palestine #StudentMovement #UChicago