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Students set up pro-Palestinian encampment, demand University of Michigan to divest from Israel

Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Hundreds of pro-Palestinian students rallied near an encampment that sprang up Monday on the University of Michigan Diag, deploying an approach used by students at other college campuses to pressure the university to divest itself from Israeli companies amid Israel's war with Hamas.

Jewish students stood nearby, many of whom wrapped themselves in Israeli flags, as Jews prepared to celebrate the seven-day Passover holiday, which began Monday at sundown.

The UM encampment included more than two dozen tents that students said they planned to keep up until UM divests in Israel. University officials, including regents, have said they plan to continue their investments and countered that the university's endowment has no direct investment in any Israeli company and indirect investments are a small fraction of 1% of the endowment.

Tensions elsewhere have led to arrests of protesters at Columbia University in New York and Yale University in Connecticut; Harvard University closed the hub of its campus, Harvard Yard, until Friday in anticipation of student protests.

UM student organizers said the encampment is to support Palestinians living in Gaza, where health officials said an estimated 34,000 Palestinians have been killed. About 130 Israeli citizens remain hostages by Hamas since the militant group launched a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians. Israeli officials have rejected claims of genocide and countered that the Oct. 7 attack on Israel was genocide.

"We are here for our martyrs in Palestine," Salma Hamamy, president of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a UM Palestinian advocacy group, told the crowd of hundreds during an afternoon rally.


Protesters will continue to honor Palestinians in Gaza and press the university to divest "because this university is entirely complicit in those deaths. As students, we refuse to remain silent as this continues," Hamamy added.

Nia Hall, a first-year education doctoral student from northern California, added that "academic institutions like this one continue to show us ... that they are rooted in structural racism and colonialism" and "students are the moral compass for social movements."

"History will judge poorly upon you (President) Santa Ono, regents and all University of Michigan administration who choose to side with an oppressive force committing genocide rather than support your own students with the moral clarity and ethics to demand justice and divestment," Hall said.

The encampment comes as university leaders across the country, including at UM, are working to balance free speech with safety and inclusion for all students.


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