Pro-Palestinian protesters at University of Oregon chain themselves to building, host mock trial

Student protesters at the University of Oregon have escalated their actions, with some chaining themselves to Johnson Hall on Thursday afternoon.

The UO Palestine Coalition, a coalition of student groups calling for an end to the war in Gaza, began its UO Gaza Solidarity Encampment on the Knight Library Lawn on April 29. The group has repeatedly made demands of the university's administration, calling for divestment from Jasper Ridge Partners, implementation of a Boycott, a sanctions campaign on campus and condemnation of "the genocide against Palestinians."

The encampment has grown over the past 17 days, with students pledging to stay however long it takes to outlast the administration.

Surrounded by supporters, five Pro-Palestinian protesters chain themselves to the entrance of Johnson Hall at the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Surrounded by supporters, five Pro-Palestinian protesters chain themselves to the entrance of Johnson Hall at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

On Thursday, protesters held a "trial," featuring impersonators of UO leaders including President Karl Scholz, CEO of the UO Foundation Paul Weinhold and UO Board of Trustees Chair Steve Holwerda, "charging" them each with being complicit. Student protesters then claimed Johnson Hall, renaming it "Alareer Hall" after Palestinian writer, professor and activist Refaat Alareer, who was reportedly killed by an Israeli airstrike in December.

Five masked protesters then chained themselves to the pillars of Johnson Hall, declaring they "aren't leaving." Students also painted red handprints on the windows and wrote on the walls of the building statements like "You fund genocide."

UO negotiators have met several times with student organizers. On Thursday, the negotiators sent a written response to the encampment's demands, rejecting most of them.

Scholz's most recent statement on the encampment was posted on May 10. He expressed his worry for all students, and empathized with the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but asked students to end the overnight encampment.

Pro-Palestinian protesters gather on the steps of Johnson Hall after marching through the building on the University of Oregon campus May 10 in support of a cease-fire in Gaza.
Pro-Palestinian protesters gather on the steps of Johnson Hall after marching through the building on the University of Oregon campus May 10 in support of a cease-fire in Gaza.

"The choice of some protesters to chain themselves to a university building marks an unfortunate escalation of recent protest activities and additional violations of university policy and the student code of conduct," stated UO communications via email. "These actions disrupt university operations, impede access to the building and create unsafe obstructions to people exiting the building in case of an emergency."

UO stated its response to the encampment is "constantly evolving" with university employees monitoring the encampment and considering potential resolutions, causing employees to be taken away from their daily duties.

"This escalation creates new safety concerns in addition to those already communicated to students within the encampment," UO stated. "The university continues to evaluate its options to bring this incident to a satisfactory conclusion."

Miranda Cyr reports on education for The Register-Guard. You can contact her at mcyr@registerguard.com or find her on Twitter @mirandabcyr.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: University of Oregon protesters chain themselves to building

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