Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Divestment demonstrators, counterprotesters stand off on Deering Meadow

Jacob Wendler/The Daily Northwestern
Demonstrators formed a human chain on Deering Meadow to prevent counterprotesters from entering their encampment.

Divestment demonstrators stood off with pro-Israel counterprotesters for more than an hour at Deering Meadow on Sunday afternoon. 

Just before 11 a.m., University Police set up bike racks on the northeast corner of Deering Meadow to act as barricades for a pre-planned pro-Israel counter-demonstration. About a dozen pro-Israel counterprotesters, none of whom appeared to be students, gathered at the north end of the Deering plaza to chant “bring them home,” in reference to Israel hostages currently being held by Hamas. 

Despite being asked by University Police officers to stay off Deering Meadow for safety, the group of counterprotesters moved to the grass after growing to a crowd of about 150 people. Encampment demonstrators formed a human chain, linking arms to prevent counterprotesters from moving into the tent area. 

Several police officers arrived at the scene — including Chief of Police Bruce Lewis, who declined to comment — standing in between divestment demonstrators and pro-Israel counterprotesters. Along with encampment protest marshalls, the officers attempted to keep counterprotesters from physically engaging with divestment demonstrators. 

Several counterprotesters, few of whom were student-aged, took videos of divestment demonstrators and called them “Hamas.” 

“The aggressors here is that side,” said protest marshall and graduate student Summer Pappachen, pointing toward the pro-Israel counterprotesters. “They’re taunting us, they’re trying to doxx us … You want to talk about outside agitators? It is the Zionists who have come here. Look at the ages of these people.” 

Pappachen said the encampment has been peaceful since it was set up and that she hoped the standoff would resolve peacefully. A little after noon, pro-Israel counterprotesters began to back out of Deering Lawn at the request of University Police officers.

One Jewish student who attended the counterprotest said he went because of the “distortion” of the pro-Palestine movement. 

“If it were ‘free Palestine,’ I might be ok with it,” he said as divestment demonstrators shouted “free Palestine” chants. “But it seems to be the erasure of Jews in the land of Israel.” 

Pappachen said the main demands of the encampment demonstrators was NU’s financial divestment from Israel-linked institutions and safety for student speech and protest. After counterprotesters largely left Deering Meadow, an organizer said the encampment’s message “isn’t antisemitic,” but rather focused on “love” and “liberation.” 

One Israeli first-year graduate student said she was not against the encampment’s missions, but “the way they do it.” 

“Breaking rules and this encampment puts all of us in danger because we don’t know who is a student and who is not,” she said. 

She doesn’t feel safe on campus when “there are people who want my death and they are covering their faces,” the student added.

Representatives of NU Hillel and Wildcats for Israel said the counterprotest was not affiliated with the two organizations. Hillel Executive Director Michael Simon and Chabad Rabbi Mendy Weg both appeared at the counterprotest. 

For second-year graduate student Molly Schiffer, who has been at the encampment on and off since Thursday, the counterprotesters’ strategy did not seem like an effective way to garner support for hostages being held by Hamas, she said.

“If they want to have their voices heard, it might be more effective for them to not try and physically intrude on the space students have created here,” Schiffer said. 

As a Jewish student, Schiffer said she opposes the war in Gaza in part because of the safety and well-being of hostages. But the encampment demonstrators are protesting the bigger picture actions of the Israeli military and government, Schiffer said. 

“I’m sympathetic, but what we’re protesting against is an army that’s currently engaged in digging mass graves,” she said. 

Jacob Wendler and Nicole Markus contributed reporting. 

Email: [email protected] 

X: @william2tong

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