University of Chicago police clear protest encampment early Tuesday, days after president announces intention to intervene

CHICAGO — University of Chicago Police cleared a pro-Palestine protest encampment in a brief raid at the South Side university early Tuesday morning, organizers said.

About 50 UCPD officers began dismantling tents and makeshift barriers surrounding them around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, protester Christopher Iacovetti said.

“They started throwing everything in every possible direction,” said Iacovetti, a PhD student at the university.

They brought printed “final notices” to occupants of the encampment, which were later ripped and strewn at protesters’ feet when they locked arms against a barricade and a line of UCPD officers outside a side entrance to the quad on South Ellis Avenue later Tuesday morning.

A faculty liaison said the main quad had been entirely cleared of protesters by about 7 a.m. Tuesday. It was not clear how many arrests had been made, if any.

Several dozen protesters faced university police as and chanted, “we are the encampment! We are the encampment!” along with other slogans calling on the university of disclose and drop its financial ties to Israel.

Organizers had spent much of the night preparing for an anticipated police incursion, the second night in a row the expectation of clearance had circulated among those camping out beneath the gothic buildings that ring the university’s main quad.

The encampment has occupied the main quad of the University of Chicago since April 29. It’s one of many other large-scale student protests across the country in demanding the university divest from companies with ties to Israel, including weapons manufacturers supplying arms to Israel’s military amid the mounting death toll in Gaza. More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Health Ministry.

Israel launched its bombardment of Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, where the group killed some 1,200 people and took 250 hostages. President Joe Biden last week defended the right to protest but insisted that “order must prevail” at college campuses, as some in Chicago’s Jewish community demanded action at local universities to prevent hate speech.

On Friday, university president Paul Alivisatos claimed the encampment had produced a “systemic disruption” to daily life and announced the university was prepared to “intervene” hours before protesters had a brief confrontation with a group of fraternity brothers trying to place an American flag near a pole where activists had raised a Palestinian flag.

Protesters anticipated a police raid Sunday night and put out a call for activists and organizers to join them on the quad, though their preparations died down around 3 a.m. Monday morning.