At least 12 arrested as riot police dismantle anti-Israel camp at Detroit university

Wayne State University head says protest created ‘environment of exclusion’ in which some students ‘felt unwelcome’; staff told to work remotely; in-person summer classes suspended

Police detain a protester at an anti-Israel encampment at Wayne State University in Detroit, May 30, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Police detain a protester at an anti-Israel encampment at Wayne State University in Detroit, May 30, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

American police broke up an anti-Israel encampment at Wayne State University (WSU) in Detroit on Thursday, arresting at least 12 people after protest organizers turned down offers to meet with school officials and refused to leave.

WSU University President Kimberly Andrews Espy cited health and safety concerns and disruptions to campus operations. Staff were encouraged to work remotely this week, and in-person summer classes were suspended.

“No individual or group is permitted to claim campus property for their own use and deny others access to that property,” Espy said.

The camp, she added, “created an environment of exclusion — one in which some members of our campus community felt unwelcome and unable to fully participate in campus life.”

Critics of the student protest encampments that sprung up on university campuses since the outbreak of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza have cited viral episodes of outright antisemitism as evidence of a widespread problem. The encampments’ proponents — including some Jewish students — have insisted that antisemitic attitudes and rhetoric are rare.

Television video showed Wayne State and Detroit police in riot gear tearing down fencing and breaking down tents erected May 23 on green space near the undergraduate library. Clips posted to social media showed violent arrests, with protesters hurling verbal abuse at officers in riot gear.

The protesters chanted: “There’s no riot here, why are you in riot gear?”

At least 12 people were arrested for trespassing or other offenses, including one for assaulting a police officer, Wayne State spokesperson Matt Lockwood said.

Anti-Israel students at universities in the US and in Europe have demanded their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that they say support its war against Hamas in Gaza.

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

Wayne State this week posted a video of its efforts to invite protesters to private meetings with Espy and other officials if they would dismantle the camp. Lockwood said all were rejected.

US Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who is of Palestinian origin, visited the encampment site Thursday after it was broken up 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 in Ann Arbor on May 21 broke up a similar encampment after 30 days, after student demonstrators showed up at the home of a school official and placed fake body bags on her lawn.

This photo provided by Sarah Hubbard shows anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian protesters in Okemos, Michigan, demonstrating outside the home of Sarah Hubbard, the chair of the University of Michigan’s governing board, on May 15, 2024 (Sarah Hubbard via AP)

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 35,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far, though only some 24,000 fatalities have been identified at hospitals. The toll, which cannot be verified, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

A total of 292 soldiers have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

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