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VIDEOS: Police break up pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Michigan Diag; 4 arrested

Posted at 6:24 AM, May 21, 2024

Editor's Note: Earlier versions of this story and videos said Ann Arbor police were involved in the raid, but they were not. It was only University of Michigan police. Ann Arbor police were involved in crowd control, they say.

The University of Michigan Diag has reopened and four people have been released from custody after University of Michigan police, dressed in riot gear, broke up the Pro-Palestinian encampment on campus early Tuesday morning.

VIDEO: Watch as police move in to break up the encampment at the University of Michigan

VIDEO: Police move to break up encampment at U-M

“It was still dark and when I got out, they gave us a 10 minute dispersal warning. They started approaching us after about 6 minutes and immediately started pepper spraying us. I saw one person being pushed to the ground and being detained,” said Kayla Gonzalez, a protester who described the raid. 

Police used pepper spray to move the protesters back, according to video captured on the scene, and protesters were seen washing out their eyes with water.

Around 7 a.m., University of Michigan President Santa J. Ono sent a letter to students and faculty announcing the end of the encampment, and saying that it came after protesters refused to comply with requests to remove the external camp barriers, refrain from overloading power sources and stop using open flames.

VIDEO: Watch police break up pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Michigan:

Police raid pro-Palestinian encampment at University of Michigan Diag; 4 arrested

"The protesters refused to comply with these requests. That forced the university to take action and this morning, we removed the encampment," Ono said in the email. "The disregard for safety directives was only the latest in a series of troubling events centered on an encampment that has always violated the rules that govern the Diag – especially the rules that ensure the space is available to everyone."

VIDEO: Chopper video shows the encampment after the police raid:

Chopper video of pro-Palestinian encampment at U-M after police raid

Ono said in a statement that the university supports the right to protest peacefully, and people can protest "as they always have at the University of Michigan, so long as those protests don’t violate the rights of others and are consistent with university policies meant to ensure the safety of our community."

Officials say four people were arrested on Tuesday as police worked to break up the encampment.

"I never felt unsafe around it and being a student here, having to walk past it every day, ya know, it just seems like it was a little bit of an overreaction," said U-M student Trevor Kudlak.

Shortly after the encampment was cleared, protesters gathered outside the Washtenaw County Jail.

There, the group continued what they had been doing at the Diag, playing drums and dancing, gathering on the lawn to listen to speakers, with some seeking shade around the building. The protesters told us three people were privately taken to the hospital for treatment.

WATCH: Protesters march outside of Washtenaw County Jail after arrests:

Protesters march outside of Washtenaw County Jail after arrests

“We’re going to continue to fight against divestment no matter what the university does,” said one protester outside the jail.

The four people who were arrested were released from custody around 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

“I hope the community can stand up like this every single day … for the people who are oppressed all across the globe,” said Asad, a Michigan alum, who was arrested during the raid and declined to give his last name.

Rhiannon Willow, a grad student and research assistant, says she's been part of the University of Michigan encampment for a little over four weeks. She recounted what happened as police moved people out.

VIDEO: Rhiannon recounts what happened as police broke up the encampment:

Protester speaks after being released from custody

“I was washing their eyes, they told us to move north, we moved north off the Diag … I was standing there with my friends taking care of them and an officer grabbed me out of the line and body slammed me face first onto the ground,” said Willow, who said she’s now being charged with resisting and obstructing an officer. 

“I believe in a free Palestine and I believe that even if others disagree with me that I should be able to demonstrate for that as the law allows me to," she added.

Willow said she was told she's now banned from campus.

Protesters with the TAHIR Coalition had been camped out on the U-M Diag since last month calling on the university to divest investments from Israel.

Last week, students say they were asked to leave by school officials but they remained at the encampment.

Also last week, relations between U-M regents and protesters reached a boiling point as the protesters targeted homes of Board of Regents members.

VIDEO: Watch our report below about the targeting of homes:

Escalating demonstrations at the University of Michigan

After police moved everyone out on Tuesday, university ground crews power washed the Diag and reopened it in the afternoon.

With the encampment now clear, those protesting outside the jail vow to keep their fight going.

“This is why stand up, when people are under attack and there’s injustice you stand up and fight back," said Asad.