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WashU: More than 80 arrested on campus during pro-Palestine protest

By Kalie Strain and Shoshana Stahl

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    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (KMOV) — Washington University students established an encampment on campus Saturday to call for divestment from Boeing, which manufactures weapons as well as planes, and in a show of support for Palestinians in Gaza.

A few hours after the protest began, police began making arrests. The student group Resist WashU said more than 60 protesters were arrested. First Alert 4 has asked Washington University for the number of arrests made, the school said more than 80 protesters were arrested.

This comes as universities around the United States have set up encampments to protest the war between Israel-Hamas war.

When First Alert 4 reached out to the university for comment. The school later sent the following statement:

Today a large group of individuals entered the Washington University campus with the intention of causing a significant disruption to the university. The group, which included WashU students and employees as well as many individuals not affiliated with the university, marched to multiple campus locations, pitched tents, and indicated that they did not intend to leave. They also put out a call for more people to come to campus to join their demonstration.

It quickly became clear through the words and actions of this group that they did not have good intentions on our campus and that this demonstration had the potential to get out of control and become dangerous. When the group began to set up a camp in violation of university policy, we made the decision to tell everyone present that they needed to leave. We arrested more than 80 individuals who refused to leave after being asked multiple times. All will face charges of trespassing and some may also be charged with resisting arrest and assault, including for injuries to police officers.

We are firmly committed to free expression and allow ample opportunity for voices to be heard on our campus. However, we expect everyone to respect our policies and we will take swift action to enforce them to their fullest extent.

First Alert 4 has reached out to Boeing and is waiting to hear back.

Following a march across the campus starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, the students created their encampment outside of Olin Library. According to WashU’s student paper, Student Life, there were approximately 250 students and community members in attendance at the march from Forest Park to Olin Library.

“WashU has a lot of money,” Penelope, a WashU sophomore, told First Alert 4. “It’s a powerful institution, and as a powerful institution, it has a duty to uphold education across the world and put its money in responsible places.”

A First Alert 4 crew on the scene watched as students packed up their encampment and moved it around 4:30 p.m.

First Alert 4′s crew, along with protesters not affiliated with the university, were asked to leave campus shortly before 5 p.m.

Just before 7:30 p.m., our news crew on the scene heard police tell all protesters they must leave or they would be arrested. Protesters responded by forming a human chain around the encampment.

Just before 7:45 p.m. First Alert 4 saw police begin to arrest protesters. An alert from WashU’s emergency management page at 8:20 p.m. confirmed police began arresting protesters refusing to leave campus.

Megan Green, the President of the St. Louis City Board of Alderman, and Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier were on WashU’s campus during the protest.

“There tends to be a different type of police response, a less extreme police response, so we want to be eyes and ears on the ground to make sure the rights of our students are protected,” Green said.

Jill Stein, presidential candidate for the Green Party, was also on WashU’s campus during the protest and arrested. Stein’s campaign manager Jason Call told First Alert 4 on Sunday that he and deputy campaign manager Kelly Merrill-Cayer were also arrested.

“The Stein campaign supports the demands of the students and their peaceful protest and assembly on campus,” Call said. “Student protest for peace and civil liberties has always represented the best part of our collective moral conscience.”

Call said Stein and others requested a meeting with Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Rob Wild before demonstrations to de-escalate the potential for arrest. However, Wild declined.

“I am refraining from any comments on law enforcement and tactics at this time, however, Dr Stein and others requested dialog with Washington University Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Rob Wild, in an attempt to de-escalate the potential for arrest,” Call said. “Wild refused to engage.”

Resist WashU said the students intend to keep the encampment up until their demands are met.

“Israel’s genocidal campaign has fueled the murder of over 40,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the last six months,” the students wrote in the release sent to the press. “The same bombs Israel is dropping on Gaza are manufactured at a Boeing facility in St. Charles, Missouri. Meanwhile, WashU continues to cultivate its longstanding partnership with Boeing. The university welcomes Boeing recruiters to campus, and Boeing is a top employer of WashU graduates. The university refuses to disclose information about potential financial investments in Boeing.”

In November, First Alert 4 covered a protest at the St. Charles Boeing plant, where protestors demanded a ceasefire.

Resist WashU listed their demands as:

Divest from Genocide: Respect Student Union’s resolution and cut all ties with Boeing. Ban Boeing from virtual and in-person recruitment events. Create full transparency in WashU’s investments. Divest from war profiteers, the fossil fuel industry, and all companies and institutions profiting from Israeli occupation in Palestine.

Academic Boycott: Cut ties with Israeli educational institutions, including study abroad programs. Refuse funding and censorship of courses and departments by the Israeli government. Ensure academic freedom for professors teaching and researching about Palestine. Create an Indigenous Studies department offering courses that center Palestine.

No Policing: Drop the charges, drop the suspensions. Stop policing St. Louis residents’ access to university resources. Defund WUPD.

Stop the Displacement: Stop buying land. Make payments in lieu of taxes to UCity and St. Louis City. Return all land to Indigenous communities.

End the Silence: Release a statement condemning the ongoing genocide in Palestine and calling for an immediate, permanent ceasefire.

On March 19, the Washington University Student Union Senate came to a resolution requesting the school divest from Boeing.

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