Northwestern to Allow ‘Peaceful Demonstrations’ on Campus After Reaching Agreement With Protesters

A group of protesters set up on Northwestern University’s campus on April 25, 2024. (WTTW News)A group of protesters set up on Northwestern University’s campus on April 25, 2024. (WTTW News)

Peaceful protests will be allowed to continue on Northwestern University’s campus through the spring semester, but nearly all tents set up at Deering Meadow must be removed under an agreement reached between protesters and university administration.

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Protests began on the Evanston campus and at universities across the country in recent weeks amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

The agreement, announced Monday, will “bring the demonstration into compliance with University rules and policies,” according to a statement from Northwestern President Michael Schill.

“This agreement represents a sustainable and de-escalated path forward, and enhances the safety of all members of the Northwestern community while providing space for free expression that complies with University rules and policies,” Schill and university administrators said in a statement.

As part of the deal, Northwestern will allow “permit peaceful demonstrations” until spring semester classes end June 1. One aid tent will be allowed to remain on site, but all other Deering Meadow tents must be removed.

According to Schill, the agreement also “includes support for our Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students.”

“This agreement was forged by the hard work of students and faculty working closely with members of the administration to help ensure that the violence and escalation we have seen elsewhere does not happen here at Northwestern,” Northwestern’s statement read.

The university said it would “take action” against anyone who does not comply with the agreement, which could include suspending non-compliant students and removing others from campus.

Schill said the agreement will also help ensure antisemitic and anti-Muslim/Palestinian incidents like ones reportedly seen over the weekend — which he largely blamed on demonstrators who are “not affiliated with Northwestern” — will not continue.

“In line with a strong commitment to a broad and inclusive coalition, and the principle of centering Palestinian student voices, this agreement was resoundingly approved by elected representatives of the coalition,” Northwestern Divestment Coalition, which organized the protests, said in a statement according to The Daily Northwestern. “Given the specific circumstances, we determined this to be the best course of action to achieve tangible wins, maintain a sustainable movement, protect our community, and build toward Palestinian liberation.”

Student protests over the Israel-Hamas war have popped up at many college campuses following the arrest of demonstrators this month at Columbia University.

The students are calling for universities to separate themselves from companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza — and in some cases from Israel itself. The number of arrests nationwide has approached 1,000 since New York police arrested demonstrators at Columbia on April 18.

Protests on many campuses have been orchestrated by coalitions of student groups. The groups largely act independently, though students say they’re inspired by peers at other universities. Some universities say outsiders have joined student protesters and caused trouble.

The protests have even spread to Europe, with French police removing dozens of students from the Sorbonne university after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the main courtyard.

Fewer tent encampments are sprouting around the U.S. as the academic year winds down, though students have dug in at several high-profile universities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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