Chancellor Martin condemns pro-Palestine protest and encampment

| Editor-in-Chief

Protesters form a circle around the statue of George Washington outside of Olin Library. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

Chancellor Martin condemned the pro-Palestine protests and encampment that happened on Saturday April 27, in a statement issued via email to the student body, April 29. 

The protest on April 27 marked the third weekend in a row that students have held pro-Palestine protests related to the Israel-Hamas war and divestment from Boeing. It was the second attempt at establishing an encampment on Washington University grounds, after one was shut down within an hour of being put up on April 20. 

Since the first major protest at a Bear Day event two weeks ago, the intensity of the University response has escalated. Around the nation, college students have organized similar protests, notably at Columbia University and the University of Southern California

Across the country, colleges have responded to the encampments and protests using police and other disciplinary measures, including suspensions. This was the second time that protesters were arrested at a pro-Palestine protest on campus this year. In total, over 100 people were arrested, including 23 WashU students and four University faculty.

“We’ve all watched as protests have spiraled out of control on other campuses across the country in recent months. We are not letting this happen here,” Martin’s statement said.

A day after Martin made his statement, the Missouri branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued their own. In it they critiqued the University’s handling of the situation and breaking precedent with how WashU administraion handled similar situations in the past. 

Washington University’s choice to stamp out pro-Palestine protests is a divorce from its long history of tolerance towards, and in some cases participated in, student activism on a range of issues that have redirected and reshaped the conscience of our Nation,” the statement read.

It also explained how this kind of behavior by University administration limits free speech, even though it is a core University value that Chancellor Martin taught a class about earlier this semester.  

The ACLU stressed that using police in response to protesters both “endanger[s] students” and should be viewed as “a measure of last resort.”

Martin wrote that those who came to campus intended to cause harm, by shouting phrases “many in our community find threatening and antisemitic,” according to the statement. 

“They did not leave voluntarily, so we made the decision to peaceably remove them. Unfortunately, they physically resisted,” Martin said.

An Instagram statement from the Faculty for Justice in Palestine in response to Martin’s claims and the events of April 27 placed blame on the administration, not protesters, for the use of violence on campus.  

“The only danger and the only violence that occurred on Saturday was at the hands of police officers and the administrators that authorized their activity,” the statement reads. “The only disruption to campus activities is that students, faculty, and staff are now banned from campus and are now unable to return to their housing, hold and take exams on campus, or do their jobs.”

Three police officers pin one protester to the ground while attaching zip tie handcuffs. (Alan Zhou | Student Life)

250 people were present at the protest, 100 of whom were arrested. Per Martin’s statement, the majority of those who were arrested had no University affiliation. 

Martin highlighted twice in his statement that three police officers were injured while arresting protesters, some of whom he said “physically resisted.” He did not make note of any injuries caused by the police to the protesters who were arrested and detained. 

According to the Source, WashU’s own news outlet, those who resisted arrest may face charges for assaulting officers. The officers’ injuries include a concussion, broken finger, and a groin injury. 

Demonstrators were asked to leave campus multiple times on Saturday night since their encampments were in violation of two components of Event Management’s space usage policy.  

According to the policy, events that include temporary structures, like tents, have to be approved in advance. Additionally, no events are permitted on campus between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. without prior approval. 

Currently, the Demonstrations and Disruption policy serves as the administration’s approach to protests. This policy has been criticized by students at a past demonstration for not containing any definition of what constitutes a protest. 

In the statement, Martin said that in the past peaceful demonstrations have taken place on campus as long as they did not interfere with any policies.

He also emphasized the need to protect University property during protests and not allow any non-University entity to set up encampments. 

“To be crystal clear, we will not permit students and faculty, and we certainly will not permit outside interests, to take over Washington University property to establish encampments to promote any political or social agenda,” Martin said.

Martin ended his statement issuing a warning that those who seek to protest on campus in the future will be punished by the University for doing so if they are in violation of any school policies. 

“To those who plan to continue to come to campus with the intention of disrupting our education and research mission and violating our policies, please know we will respond proportionately each and every time.” The statement read, “You will not do this here.”


This Article was updated on May 2nd to include a statement made by ACLU Missouri on April 30th.

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