Football: Student activists protest on the field at Saturday’s game


Gabe Bider/The Daily Northwestern

Student protesters stormed Ryan Field during Saturday’s football game against Iowa. They demanded the University “divest from death” and “invest in life-giving institutions.”

Madison Smith, Photo Editor

With less than a minute remaining in the first half, about nine student protesters holding banners stormed Ryan Field during Saturday’s game against Iowa. 

The protesters were members of multiple student activist groups, including NU Community Not Cops, Students for Justice in Palestine, NU Dissenters, Fossil Free NU and Students Organizing for Labor Rights. The students stood for just over three minutes before being escorted off the field. The banners they held read, “Board of Trustees meet with us now,” “Abolish NUPD invest in Black lives” and “Stop funding the war on Palestine,” among other messages.

The protest occurred during Family Weekend, during which many students and their families were in attendance at the game. 

“It’s important that our entire Northwestern community is aware, especially parents, (of) where their money is being put,” said one NUCNC organizer, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns. 

NUCNC organizers listed their demands on social media as protesters stood on the field. The demands included a commitment to “divest from death” and “invest in life-giving institutions,” as well as facilitating meetings between the Board of Trustees and students at least twice a year. 

The activist groups hope senior administrators will provide concrete deadlines to meet their set of demands.

In light of recent allegations of druggings at fraternity houses and other nearby residencies, the protesters also stood in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault on campus. In their demands, they urged the University to build better protections for and systems that center and support survivors of sexual violence. 

“We know that police have not been able to stop the druggings that are happening on campus,” the NUCNC organizer said. “Police do not keep us safe.”

Coach Pat Fitzgerald said he reacted to the demonstration out of “care and concern” by trying to keep his players away from the protesters. 

“My first focus is the health, safety and wellbeing of our student athletes,” Fitzgerald said during a news conference following the game. “You never know what may happen.”

As protesters stood on the field, the crowd booed. The NUCNC organizer said Iowa fans became violent as the student activists walked off the field. Some spectators threw objects in the direction of protesters and yelled slurs. While protesters demonstrated, one Iowa fan ran onto the field and attempted to grab the banners, pulling one protester to the ground. 

According to the organizer, protesters only left the field once they were threatened with arrest. University spokesperson Jon Yates said no arrests were made. The matter is under investigation by University Police, he added.

It has been 521 days since Black student activists demanded in a widely circulated petition that NU divest from police and invest in life-giving institutions. Last fall, NUCNC led daily protests calling for the abolition of University Police and Evanston Police Department. Their last major protest in March was met with a large police presence

The coalition of student advocacy groups is planning on hosting an orientation meeting for new members soon, according to the NUCNC organizer. 

“We disrupted the game because Northwestern cares more about football than they do about our demands,” the NUCNC organizer said. “There’s more to come.”

This story has been updated to include developing information regarding the University’s response to the protest.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @madisonlorsmith

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