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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

After being told to disperse, students linked arms on the God Quad. NDPD subsequently arrested everyone in the circle, as well as two others.

Following meeting with administrators, 17 protesters arrested

After meeting on the quad with Provost and Keough School dean, students refused to disperse at pro-Palestinian demonstration

Editor’s Note: All protesters have been released. You can read our update on the story here.

After a rain-soaked summit under a tree with top University administrators on Thursday evening, 17 peaceful protesters were arrested during a pro-Palestinian demonstration on God Quad. While most have been released already, three students charged with resisting arrest will have hearings today.

The protests yesterday began around 5 p.m. on a grass lawn near the Hammes Bookstore, dubbing the lawn ‘Nahida and Samar Lawn,’ in honor of a Catholic Palestinian mother and daughter killed in Gaza, and followed similar protests held a week earlier during a celebration for University President Fr. John Jenkins’ retirement

After setting up blankets on the grass, protests read a new letter they had written addressed to Jenkins. In the letter, the protesters derided the University for “taking our matter quite lightly” and articulated three demands which they wished the University to abide by: transparency on and divestment from the University’s investments in military contractor companies, a reevaluation of the University’s ties with Israeli universities and the dismantlement of the 15 minute rule, which regulates protests on campus and requires prior approval from administration.  

Protesters said they had abided by regulations during the current and previous protests, though neither yesterday’s nor last week’s protests were approved by the University. Multiple Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD) cars were stationed near the lawn during this stage of the protest.

After reading their letter, protesters attempted to set up a tent on the lawn; however, the police immediately entered the protest and confiscated the tent.

According to protesters, members of the Student Activities Office approached the protesters and asked them to disband. The protesters refused to do so until they had met with an administrator who would consider their demands.

At around 8:10 p.m., the protesters gathered their belongings and moved from their more remote location by the bookstore to the center of campus outside the Main Building. University administrators said they repeatedly warned the protesters not to move locations, citing the disturbance that a protest on God Quad would cause to students in nearby residence halls during reading days.

Police officers followed the protesters to God Quad in golf carts and were stationed around the quad, including near the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and between the Main Building and Washington Hall. Two police drones with spotlights hovered overhead. 

NDPD originally stated their intent to disperse the protest at 9 p.m. and arrest anyone who remained. Multiple protesters expressed their willingness to face arrest instead of dispersing.

At around 9:05 p.m., Mahan Mirza, a professor in the Keough School and executive director of the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, spoke to the group of protesters, explaining that faculty members had facilitated a meeting between University administrators and the organizers of the protest. 

Mirza said students had been granted permission to stay on the quad until after this meeting had taken place. He urged students not to make a decision on whether or not to be arrested until after the meeting had taken place.

“What we’re suggesting is that instead of putting yourselves in harm’s way today, the organizers actually get to talk,” Mirza said. “And if that conversation is unsatisfactory, then you always have the opportunity to escalate tomorrow.” 

As torrential downpour soaked the protestors and the pathways began to flood, around 9:30 p.m., Provost John McGreevy and Scott Appleby, retiring dean of the Keough School of Global Affairs, arrived on God Quad and met with a group of approximately seven students and faculty, including Mirza, underneath a tree. The group spoke for about 30 minutes, with McGreevy and Appleby having a brief sidebar with each other at one point.

After finishing their conversation, McGreevy and Appleby departed from the quad. The pair declined a request from The Observer to comment.

Following McGreevy and Appleby’s departure, members of the group who had met with the administrators spoke to the entire protest group and expressed their dismay at the outcome of the conversation.

The protesters described McGreevy and Appleby as “dismissive” of their demands, and were critical of their characterization of the discussion as a meeting, not a negotiation. According to the protesters, the administrators only went as far as to offer to meet with a group of the protesters some time within the next month.

“All that kind of flowery language is not helpful,” one of them said to the group.

“Eventually we said, ‘We need something tangible. What are you willing to give us right now so that we know how to move forward from here?’” he said. “They gave us a very uncertain and specific response, which is ‘We are willing to have a meeting within a month.’”

Protesters were offended by what they felt was the lack of respect they received from administration. 

“They laughed, and then they complained about having to stand in the rain,” another protester claimed. 

After this announcement, a group of protesters spoke to police, and shared the conversation with the group, reporting that police had said that all people remaining on the quad were at risk of being arrested. These protesters urged everyone who did not want to be arrested to leave.

While some protesters left the scene and others recorded videos on their phones, a group of protestors linked arms with each other and sat in a circle on God Quad. Police then approached and began arresting the protestors who formed the circle at 10:13 p.m.

Everyone within the circle was arrested as well as two individuals who were filming the events. All students were handcuffed. Some refused to stand up and were carried or dragged off the quad by police. 

In a statement to The Observer, University administration stated that the protesters’ arrest was due to the fact that they did not abide by the University’s rules requiring demonstrations to be approved in advance.

“After being repeatedly reminded of University rules, including rules governing disturbances during finals and study days, the group instead marched toward the central university quad which houses several residence halls,” the statement read. “After being warned again that demonstrations are not allowed during specific times, Notre Dame Police arrested several noncompliant group members.”

17 protesters total were arrested by NDPD. Those arrested were brought to police cars behind Washington Hall and transported to Hammes Mowbray Hall. One student, subsequently charged with resisting arrest, refused to walk and was carried by six officers into the car.

Early Friday morning, protesters who had been arrested were transferred to St. Joseph County Jail. At this time it is unclear what consequences the students will face by the University. 

All protesters were charged with criminal trespass and most did not have to post bail or bond because they signed an agreement promising to return to court for all scheduled appearances. Three students, however, were charged with “resisting law enforcement” and were given no bail, with court dates set for Friday, May 3. The rest of the students’ court cases were set for June 28.

The first group of protesters who were arrested were released from St. Joseph County Jail around approximately 1:30 a.m.

Editor’s Note: This is an evolving story and will be updated accordingly.