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Police dismantle pro-Palestinian camp at Wayne State University in Detroit


DETROIT (AP) — Police dismantled a pro-Palestinian encampment Thursday at Wayne State University in Detroit, two days after the school suspended in-person classes and encouraged staff to work remotely to avoid any problems with the protesters' encampment.

Television footage showed campus police and Detroit police officers in riot gear tearing down fencing before they removed the protesters and started breaking down tents erected last week on green space near Wayne State’s undergraduate library.

After police began removing the encampment, the protesters chanted, “There’s no riot here, why are you in riot gear?” The protesters later began marching on Wayne State’s campus, and some people appeared to clash with officers, WXYZ-TV reported.

Protest camps sprang up across the U.S. and in Europe as students demanded their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that they say support its war in Gaza. Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s war with Hamas, which they describe as a genocide against the Palestinians.

Wayne State President Kimberly Andrews Espy said in a statement that university police told people in the encampment about 5:30 a.m. Thursday to gather their belongings and leave, The Detroit News reported.

“The encampment at Wayne State University was removed this morning,” Espy said. “After ongoing consultation with the Board of Governors, university leadership, and leaders in the community — and after many good-faith efforts to reach a different conclusion — this was the right time to take this necessary step.”

Espy said that many people left the camp but that final cleanup was ongoing as of 7:30 a.m. She said campus operations would remain remote Thursday.

Wayne State suspended in-person classes Tuesday and encouraged staff to work remotely. School spokesperson Matt Lockwood said there had been “public safety concerns,” especially about access to certain areas.

Wayne State has 16,000 undergraduate students but fewer during the summer term. The protesters have demanded that the school divest from weapons manufacturing companies supplying Israel, provide a full disclosure of investments and cease delegation trips to Israel.

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, had visited the encampment to offer support to the protesters.

Ali Hassan, who represents WSU Students for Justice in Palestine, told WXYZ-TV this week that he believed the university’s shift to remote learning means the administration is taking notice of the student protests.

“The reason that they went remote is because we have put pressure on them,” he said.

The University of Michigan, west of Detroit in Ann Arbor, on May 21 broke up a similar encampment after 30 days.