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Protest continues at Case Western Reserve University; administration calls it trespassing

Demonstrators stand on grass behind large signs in support of Palestine
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators remain on the Kelvin Smith Library Oval after the university said "the protesters' continued presence and occupation is considered trespassing."

Despite Case Western Reserve University's president declaring Thursday evening that protesters remaining at Kelvin Smith Library Oval were trespassing, pro-cease-fire students and others continued to protest and camp out at the oval into the night.

The students also marched to Adelbert Hall to place their list of demands on the door to that administration building. Those include demands for the university to divest from Israeli companies while the conflict continues; ending its ties with Israeli academic institutions and study abroad programs; and calling for a cease-fire in Gaza.

“The protesters’ continued presence and occupation is considered trespassing and is a violation of university policies,” university President Eric Kaler said in a statement Thursday.

Students, faculty and staff and any others who break the policy will be held accountable and may be prosecuted, the statement said.

“In addition, protesters will be accountable for any anti-Semitic or other intimidating or harassing speech,” the statement said.

Despite those statements, police and administrators stood by, watching the protesters Thursday as they marched, chanted and even moved the university-placed barriers around the protest to encompass the sidewalk around the oval, essentially taking over the area. Fewer than two dozen university police officers were onsite, observing the scene.

Jad Oglesby, vice president of Students for Justice in Palestine, said students will not relent with their protest until their demands are met. He said students are protesting despite it being finals week.

man shouts into bullhorn leading group in march
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Jad Oglesby led protesters in a march around the encampment, with his parents in attendance.

"They care about their grades," Oglesby said. "And despite that, they're choosing to camp out with us in these tents; they're doing their homework, they're studying, and for the university and administration to to accuse students of trespassing on a campus that we pay for, it's really disheartening."

However, until protesters leave the oval, Kaler's statement said, the university will not discuss their demands.

The protesters, led by Students for Justice in Palestine, have been demonstrating on the oval since Monday.

University administration allowed anyone affiliated with the school to camp on the green space Monday evening, with the understanding of certain guidelines including restricting the space for the protest to the KSL Oval and so long as the protest did not interfere with university operations, according to the press release.

But on Tuesday night, the protesters allowed non-CWRU demonstrators to remain in their encampment, the university said, in violation of the university's guidelines.

“Some protesters have disrupted university operations and access to university spaces such that some students, faculty and staff feel threatened,” the release states.

Counterdemonstrators draped in the flag of Israel were also onsite calling for the release of the hostages in Gaza.

“We want peace. We want peace,” said Betzalel, who declined to give his last name. “We don't want a war, but if we need to — they put it on us.”

man stands draped in Israeli flag
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Betzalel, who would not give his last name, came to counter the protesters at the encampment.

Gabriel Wolf, a student leader with the CWRU Chabad Jewish student center, said the protest hasn’t made him feel unsafe on campus, but he’s heard from other Jewish students who have been upset by the protest. He said chants like "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" are just one reason why those students feel unsafe.

“It’s calling for the entirety of Israel to be taken off the map,” he said

Still, Wolf said he respected their right to protest.

Adam Saar, president of the Jewish Student Union at CWRU, similarly said while he disagreed heavily with what the protesters were saying, he did not want to see them arrested.

"I really hope to avoid a full scale police confrontation. I would really hate to see that," he said. "On the first night that the community did comply with the university's guidelines, that allowed students, faculty and staff to stay at the encampment overnight, and for outside community members to leave, I would hope that the protesters are able to continue seeing those demands as reasonable."

man speaks to camera
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Adam Saar, President of the Jewish Student Union, gave his view of the situation at the encampment.

Pete Moore, the M.A. Hanna Associate Professor of Politics at CWRU, joined the protesters Thursday night. He said the university administration needs to stick by its mission of teaching despite how tough that dialogue can be.

"These students have been peaceful," Moore said. "They're organized. And it's there is no justification to use force to remove them."

Man stands in denim button down
Ygal Kaufman
Ideastream Public Media
Professor Pete Moore came to support his students, who he said are doing what he taught them to do.

Updated: May 2, 2024 at 11:14 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include additional comments from those involved with the protest and from the university.

This story was previously updated with additional information about Thursday's protest.
Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.
Annie Wu is the deputy editor of digital content for Ideastream Public Media.