Protesters Take Over the Institute of Politics at University of Chicago


Pro-Palestinian protesters stormed the Institute of Politics building at the University of Chicago on Friday afternoon, overturning furniture, damaging property and confronting the institute’s director, former Senator Heidi Heitkamp. She refused their demand that she leave her office, university officials said, adding that she was the only staff member in the building.

The demonstration continued into the evening outside the institute, which is about two blocks from where the police removed a protest encampment last week.

In a statement, the protest group on Friday said that it had occupied the building to protest the University of Chicago’s ties to Israel. Bystander video showed protesters climbing through second-floor windows to leave the building, as the crowd below cheered.

After demonstrators were cleared from the building by the police, other protesters remained outside and in yards nearby, chanting, yelling and pounding drums.

Jeremy Manier, a university spokesman, said in a statement that protesters had tried to block the entrance of the building, damaged property and ignored orders from law enforcement officials to leave.

“The University of Chicago is fundamentally committed to upholding the rights of protesters to express a wide range of views,” he said. “At the same time, university policies make it clear that protests cannot jeopardize public safety, disrupt the university’s operations or involve the destruction of property.”

Officials said that earlier in the day, the institute held a board meeting in the building that included David Axelrod, the organization’s founder who was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

The Institute of Politics is two doors away from the University of Chicago Hillel and across the street from Rohr Chabad, where some students were having a Sabbath dinner when the demonstration began. As the protest continued, counterprotesters held Israeli flags within sight of the pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Rock music blasted from a nearby house, in what appeared to be an effort to drown out the protest chants.

A sign identifying the Institute of Politics building was covered with a cardboard placard that read “permanent cease-fire now,” and a set of demands were hung from the building. Among the demands was “abolish the university.”

A group of protesters at the University of Pennsylvania also tried on Friday evening to occupy a campus building. The university police and the Philadelphia police made several arrests and cleared the building, Fisher-Bennett Hall. The hall is across the street from College Green, the site of the encampment that was cleared last week by the police.

Mattathias Schwartz and Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.

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