Over 100 arrests made during police crackdown on pro-Palestine encampment

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Pro-Palestine protesters march from Forest Park to Olin Library. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

After 250 protesters set up an encampment on the East End of Washington University’s campus, the WashU Police Department (WUPD) and other local police departments arrested over 100 students, faculty, and St. Louis residents, April 27.

The protest began as a march onto campus from nearby Forest Park to Olin Library, where protesters set up an encampment before being told to leave the area by WUPD. From 4:35 p.m. to 7:20 p.m., a standoff occurred between protesters and the police with little activity. 

From 7:27 to 8:35 p.m., 100 people were arrested over the course of four waves, the arrests included 23 WashU students, four faculty members, and a number of local St. Louis community activists including Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

The protest was organized by a number of activist groups including the St. Louis branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and WashU Resist, and it is the largest protest regarding this issue on campus to date. 

This marks the second weekend in a row where protesters have attempted to set up an encampment in solidarity with Palestine after students and alumni attempted to set up tents outside Brookings Hall before being told to leave by WUPD. 

Across the country, college students have set up encampments in support of Palestine, most notably at Columbia University, where a week-long protest has led to students being arrested and suspended. 

3:00 p.m.

The protest began as scheduled in Forest Park, where a crowd of roughly 250 people gathered with signs and Palestinian flags. Around 3:35 p.m., the group made their way down Skinker Boulevard, blocking the street and forcing traffic to either stop or turn around.

Protesters had signs with phrases including “Saint Louis Against Genocide” and “Don’t arrest people for protesting against genocide.” By 3:50 p.m., protesters had reached Brookings Hall before making their way to the outside of Olin Library. 

4:00 p.m.

Protesters began setting up around 11 tents outside the library just before 4 p.m. 

“Al-Shifa massacre, stop bombing hospitals,” one sign read. Protesters chanted “WashU, WashU, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide!” and “Brick by brick, wall by wall, Zionism will fall.”

Protesters had phone numbers written in pen on their arms, with one telling a member of Student Life that it was the number for jail support and they intended to call it if they were arrested. 

Protesters gather around the George Washington statue with flags and banners. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

4:30 p.m. 

Lieutenant Antonio Hubbard of WUPD declared the protest an “unlawful assembly” and gave protesters 15 minutes to leave the area and remove their encampments or face arrest.

Protesters stated that they would not leave the area until their demands were met by University administration. According to a press release from Resist WashU, the demands call on the University to divest from Boeing, stop study abroad programs in Israel, drop the suspensions against students who participated in the Bear Day protest earlier this month, stop displacing local communities, and issue a statement calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

4:35 p.m

The University sent out a notification through the WashU Alerts system informing students of protest activity and telling students to avoid the library area. Olin Library was evacuated by WUPD.

At the time of publication, protesters have moved their encampment to the East End, and they have received another message from WUPD telling them to disperse or face arrests. 

7:20 p.m. 

At the East End, protesters had set up roughly 10 tents on the field near Brookings Hall, before linking arms in a circle around the encampment area. At 5:13 p.m., protesters were told they had 10 minutes to disperse or they would be arrested — however, none of the protesters were arrested after the allotted time passed.

Police officers stand in Brookings Hall nearby the pro-Palestine encampment on the East End. (Isaac Seiler | Student Life)

5:30 p.m.

Cori Bush — who serves as the Representative for Missouri’s 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives, which includes St. Louis — tweeted her support for the protest

“As students exercise their right to protest, I urge University & local authorities to allow these courageous students & community members to continue their practice of non-violent civil disobedience,” Bush wrote. 

Around the same time, Jill Stein arrived on campus and made her way toward the protest, where she spoke to multiple people and eventually linked arms with others in the circle around the encampment. 

Later, Stein addressed a group of local media outlets and expressed her support for the protest, which she said was entirely within students’ civil and constitutional rights. 

“We’re standing up for our highest values, and we’re standing up for what it is that the American people actually want — an immediate end to this genocide and a negotiated solution,” Stein said. “The students here are standing up for our civil liberties, for democracy here at home, and for a peaceful resolution of this very distressing conflict, and on a genocide being perpetrated in our name with our tax dollars.” 

While Stein spoke to reporters, she was with 7th Ward Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier. As they stood roughly 100 yards from the encampment, Sonnier said that she saw police officers approaching with a bullhorn and saw several officers with zip ties. 

“To be clear, some University leadership are present, but they’re behind the police, so we asked, ‘Is it possible that we could talk to them?’ and they told us ‘Absolutely not,’” Sonnier said. 

5:52 p.m. 

A protester informed Student Life that a WUPD official told a small group of individuals who were near the tents that they had five minutes to disperse or would face arrest. 

At this time, no arrests have been made, and transport vans from University City, Richmond Heights, and St. Louis Metro Police Departments are present on the scene. 

Multiple police vans line up on the East End. (Isaac Seiler | Student Life)

7:27 p.m.

Police began making arrests; some protesters were thrown to the ground and laid onto the ground in front of transport vans, which were parked at the bottom of the Brookings Hall stairs. Protesters nearby shouted, “Shame on you,” throughout the arrests. 

University and St. Louis County police make their initial attempt to break up protesters protecting the encampment. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

7:30 p.m.

Stein was arrested and put on the ground. A statement and video were released from her X account at 9:35 p.m. confirming that she had been arrested alongside her campaign manager and deputy campaign manager, Jason Call and Kelly Merrill-Cayer. 

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is arrested. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

Around five minutes later, police began to pull back and protesters began to lead chants directed towards them, including, “Who do you protect, who do you serve,” “f*ck you fascists,” and “we don’t see no riot here, why are you in riot gear?” 

At this time, roughly five different transport vans were on the East End of campus. Throughout the night, as protesters were taken away by the police, they were put into transport vans.  

7:39 p.m.

One of the protesters ran towards Skinker Boulevard and was chased by several policemen.

Roughly five minutes later, protesters unfurled a banner with the names of dead children from Gaza written on it, underneath a headline reading “We mourn.” 

7:52 p.m. 

Police lined up for another round of arrests, which occurred seven minutes later. Both WUPD and St. Louis County Police made even more arrests and began to drag away tents and other supplies from the encampment.

Multiple protesters overheard WUPD Officer Victor Chavez say, “Yeah, I’m coming for you,” while walking towards individual protesters holding the “We mourn” banner. Chavez was seen arresting at least one student soon after.

Throughout the protest and as arrests were being made, members of the National Lawyers Guild of Legal Observers were present. Members of the Guild told Student Life that their organization was asked by organizers to attend the protest in order to monitor the situation and make sure that police officers were acting in accordance with the law. 

Two University and St. Louis County Police officers arrest a student. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

8:10 p.m.

A third round of arrests occurred, and at this point the vast majority of protesters had been arrested; only 20-30 remained seated around the encampment. 

Nearby witnesses reported seeing protesters being transported in vans and being held in the Sumers Welcome Center. According to Resist WashU via Instagram, the arrested protesters were later taken to Clayton Justice Center. 

 8:20 p.m.

Members of WashU’s maintenance crew came to remove remnants of the encampment, including the tents left behind. 

A protester walking away in handcuffs after being arrested by a WUPD officer (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

8:30 p.m.

Police performed a fourth and final round of arrests and ordered all nearby spectators to disperse or also face arrest. Two minutes later, there was a University-wide notification that the entire campus was locked down and buildings could exclusively be accessed with a keycard. 

10:02 p.m.

WashU Faculty for Justice in Palestine published a post on Instagram condemning the University and calling for the release of arrested protesters. 

“In response to tonight’s peaceful, student-organized Gaza solidarity encampment, University administration orchestrated the brutal arrest, attack, and use of extreme force against its own community members and against local St. Louisans,” the post said.

The post also claimed the University was hypocritical for making the arrests while promoting free speech.

“We ask: what is the administration afraid of?” the post wrote. “If free speech is truly the core value orienting the University, why must a principled stance against genocide be met with such brutality?”

10:55 p.m. 

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Anna “Dr. G” Gonzalez; Nichol L. Luoma, Chief Administrative Officer and Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration; and Beverly Wendland, Provost and Executive Chancellor for Academic Affairs, sent out a joint email statement about the protest.

“It quickly became clear through the words and actions of this group that they did not have good intentions on our campus,” the email read. “We also felt strongly that this demonstration had the potential to get out of control and become dangerous.”

The message explained how WashU is “firmly committed to free expression,” but that the University will enforce their policies to the fullest extent when violated. 

“No one has the right to disrupt the ability of people in our community to learn and work.”

While the email initially said that 80 people were arrested, an update posted to The Source by Julie Flory, Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications said that more than 100 were arrested, including 23 students and four faculty members. 

All will face charges of trespassing and some may also be charged with resisting arrest and assault, including for injuries to police officers.”  

 

This is a breaking news story originally posted at 5:19 p.m. on April 27 and will be continuously updated as it develops. 

Quinn Moore, Lauren Smith, Elizabeth Stump, and Isaac Seiler contributed reporting. 

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