Pro-Palestinian groups camp on Michigan Diag, demand university divest from Israel

University of Michigan protest
Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 23, 2024

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WYXZ) — A protest continues at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where students took over a highly trafficked part of campus.

Students with multiple pro-Palestinian groups pitched tents on the Michigan Diag, and they're calling on university administration to divest investments from Israel.

Participating groups are part of the TAHRIR Coalition.

“We plan to be out here until the university divests its $6 billion from the genocide in Gaza," a pro-Palestinian demonstrator told 7 News Detroit.

University of Michigan protest
A University of Michigan student and pro-Palestinian demonstrator at the Diag on campus. (April 23, 2024)

The student covered his face and didn't want to give his name. He said the majority of the group hid their faces for fear of retaliation.

Nearly two dozen tents are set up on the Diag. It's the second day for the peaceful protest.

Columbia University in New York has a similar protest taking place. Demonstrators are calling on university administration to pull the plug on any funding that aids Israel.

“At the University of Michigan, there’s over $6 billion invested either directly in companies or in private equity firms that manage funds that go to companies that are weapons manufacturing, Israeli companies," the demonstrator claimed.

Student Izzie Hayman and friends showed up with Israeli flags to counter the pro-Palestinian demonstrators and also hoped to spark a conversation with them.

University of Michigan protest
University of Michigan student Izzie Hayman counters pro-Palestinian demonstrators, hoping to have a conversation. (April 23, 2024)

“There are actually are no direct funds going to Israel," she said. “We all want this war to be over. We want everyone to be safe. We want to stop the dying, stop the killing. I mean, we just want everyone to return safely.”

Keith Button, an Ann Arbor resident, said “I was just dropping off some ponchos and blankets and stuff.”

He said he stopped over to show his support after seeing the protest on social media.

“Given the fact that our government funds Israel and funds a lot of the weapons that are used in this devastation, it’s important for us as U.S. citizens to stand up and let our voices be heard about it because it’s our tax dollars that are going to funding this thing," Button said.

I was approached by Michigan alum Howard Rosenberg from Bloomfield Hills. He said he drove to Ann Arbor just for the protest and to try and bridge the divide among students.

“It’s necessary for outsiders to come in and say listen, why don’t you two groups start thinking about what’s good for both of you and in the hopes that’s something in the future?... You’re both going to be here in the future."

University of Michigan protest
University of Michigan alum Howard Rosenberg tries to bridge the divide between protesters on campus. (April 23, 2024)

"The Israeli kids are going to be here in the future. The Palestinian kids are going to be here in the future. You’re both going to live and be well. Why not start now and try to live and be well together?”

7 News Detroit wanted to get the University of Michigan's response to all of this. The public affairs department sent the following statement:

ENCAMPMENT

Yesterday, 20 tents were placed on the main quadrangle, known as the Diag, at the University of Michigan. Students are able to engage in peaceful protest in many places on campus and, at the same time, the university has a responsibility to maintain an environment that is conducive to learning and academic success. No one has the right to substantially disrupt university activities or to violate laws or university policies. We are working to minimize disruptions to university operations – most especially with classes ending today and the study period beginning before finals. Safety is always a key priority and, as such, we have increased security on campus. We are carefully monitoring the situation and remain prepared to appropriately address any harassment or threats against any member of our community.

DIVESTMENT

Regarding the calls for divestment, the university has had a policy [publicaffairs.vpcomm.umich.edu] in place for nearly 20 years that shields the university's investments from political pressures. Much of the money invested through the university’s endowment, for example, is donor funding given to provide long-term financial support for designated purposes. The Board of Regents reaffirmed its position [publicaffairs.vpcomm.umich.edu] on this issue earlier this year.

The university proposed a new Disruptive Activity Policy last month. Learn more about the proposal and what students think in the video player below:

University of Michigan students weigh in after school proposed new limits to protests