University of Michigan students stage protests amid graduation weekend

Posted at 8:11 AM, May 05, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-05 08:11:50-04

(WXYZ) — Students at the University of Michigan staged multiple protests throughout campus this weekend.

For nearly two weeks, students have been camping out at the University's Diag calling on the university to divest. Students say a portion of the university's endowment goes to companies that are profiting from the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. However, the university has repeatedly denied any direct investment into the war.

Some students who are a part of the encampment took part in a protest Friday night which ended in police deploying pepper spray and arresting two people. University Police say one student was arrested for impeding traffic and a non student was arrested for assault, resisting and obstructing.

"Everything we face from the admin suppression to the immense police violence, we will continue to fight endlessly as a coalition, as a community as a collective for Gaza, for Palestine and for complete divestment And we will continue to do that until that is what we receive," said a student activist who chose not to identify herself for safety.

Saturday morning, students staged another protest during a commencement ceremony. Several students walked out of the program carrying Palestinian flags.

Some families who traveled to campus for graduation ceremonies, say they were concerned this would happen.

"I went to the Big House for the first time so I was so looking forward to it. The whole ceremony was great," said Darshan Purandare.

Purandare traveled from California to watch his nephew walk across the stage.. He says after following what has happened at other encampments around the nation, he though the graduation ceremony at U-M may not happen at all.

"I was concerned about a week back and I asked my nephew is it safe to come because I’m coming from California," he said. "You know you could do a protest but it has to be peaceful. When you disrupt a different program or campus, it’s not peaceful anymore.'

Purandare says despite a demonstration at his nephew's ceremony he felt, the students were still able to be celebrated.

While some concerns loom around the protests, students like Brittany Hull-Dennis say they welcome them.

"I thought it was very powerful," said Hull-Dennis of the commencement protest. "I support people speaking up for what they believe in and you know I know some people will say it’s disruptive but other than that how else are they going to bring attention to it? And I definitely think they’re advocating for something they believe in. These are innocent lives they’re advocating for. So, disrupt my graduation."

The student protesters say despite the end of the semester, they’re here to stay.

"This has also become a community space. Our power is not just in numbers, but in spirit and we will continue to stay here until we receive divestment," said the student activist.