Education

U of M buildings remain closed as anti-war protests continue on campus

Students lock arms around an encampment.
Students lock arms around their pro-Palestine encampment outside Northrop Memorial Auditorium after the first dispersal order was given during a second consecutive week of pro-Palestinian protests at the University of Minnesota on Monday.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Updated: 6:20 p.m.

A dozen buildings on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus remained closed Tuesday as an anti-war protest encampment continued on Northrop Mall.

Although university police had cleared an encampment on campus last week and gave dispersal orders for the current encampment on Monday night, it remained in place overnight into Tuesday.

A student waves a Palestinian flag.
A student waves a Palestinian flag at an encampment outside Northrop Memorial Auditorium.
Tim Evans for MPR News

“It has never been the University’s goal to conduct arrests and UMPD decided the best approach was not to engage further at that time,” university spokesperson Jake Ricker said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The University’s policies and its approach to enforcing those policies has not changed. The University always prioritizes the rights and safety of those on our campus based on all the information available when making decisions,” Ricker said.

The dispersal order on Monday night prompted protesters to link arms around the grassy area in front of Northrop Memorial Auditorium. Last week, campus police arrested nine people — most of whom are current or former students — for trespassing, saying school policy and state law prevent people from setting up tents on campus without permission.

Later that day, officers from the university, Minneapolis Police Department and Minnesota State Patrol evicted protesters from a second encampment without making arrests.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were no reports of arrests connected to this week’s encampment.

Protesters are calling on the school to divest from weapons manufacturers and companies tied to the Israeli military. They also want the school to end study abroad programs in Israel.

University officials did offer to meet with the leaders of some of the student groups involved in the protest, and protest organizers posted on social media Tuesday afternoon that a meeting between protest leaders and U of M interim president Jeff Ettinger was scheduled for Wednesday morning; the university did not immediately respond to request for comment.

A sign reads "Jews against genocide."
A Jewish student holds a sign reading “Jews against genocide” at an encampment outside Northrop Memorial Auditorium.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Merlin Van Alstine, a member of Students for a Democratic Society, told MPR News at the encampment on Monday night that the offer to meet is “a step in the right direction, depending on how they go about it.”

Building closures

University officials closed buildings around the encampment site in Northrop Mall on Monday afternoon as a rally began, continued that closure on Tuesday and announced it would close them again Wednesday.

That includes Coffman Memorial Union, Walter Library, Northrop Memorial Auditorium and the Weisman Art Museum, along with several classroom and laboratory buildings. Away from Northrop Mall, other buildings on the East Campus are accessible only with U Cards.

Protesters participate in a prayer on campus grounds.
Muslims protesters participate in evening prayer in front of the University of Minnesota’s administrative building.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Monday was the last day of classes at the U. Tuesday and Wednesday are slated as study days and exams are scheduled to start Thursday.

MPR News reporters Regina Medina and Estelle Timar-Wilcox contributed to this report.

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