ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – A group of 40 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested over the weekend after occupying a University of Michigan (U-M) administration building. The protesters were demanding a meeting with University President, Santa Ono, whose office is inside of the Ruthven Administration Building.
The protesters gathered inside and outside of the Ruthven building with a number of the 200 protesters gaining access inside of the locked building. This was all happening around 4 pm and by 8 pm, police were still trying to restore order. Campus staff and a campus police officer had been blocking the doors to the Ruthven building but a protester who had gained access to the inside opened the door and allowed others to flood in.
One of the organizations participating in the protest, the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) said that protesters sat in Ono’s office for six hours, demanding the university divest its endowment worth $17.9 billion of companies profiting from Israel’s “ongoing crimes against humanity.” The GEO said in a Facebook post, “We are continuously appalled that Ono prefers to call the cops on his students than talk to them.”
In addition to GEO, other protesting organizations included the university’s chapter of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). In addition to divesting, the protesting groups called on U-M to conduct a formal inquiry into anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and Islamophobic racism and harassment; support and reaffirm the faculty and staff members who are being vilified for their support of Palestine; and to release a formal statement that clearly defines the massacre in Gaza as a genocidal ethnic cleansing campaign led by Israel and aided by the United States.
In a press release, the GEO posted a statement from a “multicultural coalition of 55 student organizations at the University of Michigan saying that during the Global Day of Action for Palestine on Friday, police responded “aggressively,” grabbing students and giving them trespassing citations. The group also complained that the police deprived protesters of water and bathroom access.
SAFE and JVP issued a joint statement on Instagram after the protest. Zaynab Elkolaly, an undergraduate student who is a part of SAFE, said, “We pleaded with the cops to allow for water to be brought in but they refused and a student fainted…Medics had to be brought in. I’m appalled to attend a university that so blatantly disregards its students’ health and well-being.” She went on to say that the police “hide like cowards behind their guns and tasers and fists because they know they’re no match for our people power.”
Multiple law enforcement agencies from around the county joined the University Police at the building including the Ann Arbor Police Department, Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, Eastern Michigan University Police Department, Michigan State Police, Pittsfield Department of Public Safety, and police departments from Northfield Township, Ypsilanti and Milan as well as the Ann Arbor Fire Department.
In addition to the chant of “no justice, no peace,” protesters could also be heard hurling insults at the police officers. Independent journalist Brendan Gutenschwager posted a video on X showing protesters running out of the building and confronting police officers shouting, “Pigs Go Home!” And “Fascists!” with their megaphones.