UC students, alumni briefly occupy politics building days after pro-Palestinian encampment razed

Students and alumni from the University of Chicago briefly occupied the university’s Institute of Politics late Friday afternoon to protest the war in Gaza and demand that the university divest itself of financial assets associated with Israel.

The protest came several days after University of Chicago Police Department officers dismantled a pro-Palestinian encampment student protesters had erected on the school’s main quad, part of a national movement of student encampments intended to force universities to disclose and divest from Israel-affiliated holdings.

Protesters briefly entered the building and were removed by UCPD, according to video provided to the Tribune. By 6 p.m. Friday, no protesters were in the building, UCPD Chief Kyle Bowman said. A broken, taped-up window was visible on the building’s second floor as hundreds of people gathered on South Woodlawn Avenue.

Protesters, some wearing helmets, goggles and face masks, surrounded the building and made a makeshift barricade out of chairs on one side. A banner listing demands and another reading “bring the intifada home” hung from the building’s first-floor windows.

University alumnus Patrick McWilliams said he attended the protest, which took place during the school’s alumni weekend, to “leverage our position as alumni to say that you will not continue to do this in our name.”

McWilliams said he was part of a group called University of Chicago alumni for Palestine and was prepared to withhold donations to the university until administrators acquiesced to protester demands.

Protesters climbed the roof of the Institute of Politics building around 5:45 p.m. to hang a Palestinian flag from the second floor of the building and began erecting a tent on the lawn. A small group of people draped with Israeli flags looked on from across Woodlawn Avenue, many standing near the university’s Chabad Rohr House a few buildings down.

One student, who declined to give her name because she “had a brick waved” at her, said she was concerned about her Jewish friends feeling unsafe on the Hyde Park campus.

“I believe Israel has a right to exist,” she said. “I’m not here because I think what Israel is doing is good. I think there’s a lot of nuance that gets lost in this kind of dialogue.”

Chicago police officers looked on from both sides of the building with UCPD officers visible on the inside.