The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

What went down during the first day of pro-Palestine encampment protests at UW-Madison

By Annika Bereny ,  Amari Mbongwo ,  Gavin Escott ,  Kodie Engst , Nicholas Sinn ,  Noe Goldhaber ,  Tomer Ronen ,  Gabriella Hartlauband  Bryna Goeking

The Daily Cardinal, April 29, 2024

<p>Encampments to free Palestine are set up 9:35 AM on April 29, 2024 on Library Mall.</p>
Photo by Mary Bosch | The Daily Cardinal

Pro-Palestine demonstrators who organized an encampment Monday at the University of Wisconsin-Madison remained on Library Mall despite warnings from university officials that the event violated state law.

UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), in collaboration with a local Young Democratic Socialists of America chapter, organized Monday’s protest calling for the university’s “financial and social” divestment from Israel, mirroring similar pro-Palestine demonstrations on college campuses across the country

The tents, which accumulated to more than two dozen in number over the course of the demonstration, first popped up early Monday morning ahead of a mostly sunny day of peaceful marches and chants.

Overcast skies and ominous unease of a nighttime police crackdown took hold Monday evening as police officers from multiple departments set up a temporary command center at the Fluno Center approximately two blocks from the protest. But no arrests were made, and police presence on Library Mall remained limited. 

Protesters continue to advocate for a list of six demands related to investment transparency, campus safety and divestment and disinvolvement with Israeli companies and programs.

University officials said Monday evening they will meet with student groups once tents are taken down and protesters comply with state laws banning camping on university grounds

The following blog recorded The Daily Cardinal’s live reporting as events unfolded Monday. You can find live updates for day two of the protest here.

[12:52 a.m. CDT] Live blog ending as police unlikely to break up demonstration tonight

By Tomer Ronen

The protest has died down, with protesters sitting down and returning to tents. There is no increase in police presence.

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As of now, the encampment still stands, and organizers plan for it to continue through Tuesday.

The live blog for Monday has ended.

 [10:45 p.m. CDT]  Police shove local elected officials out of Fluno Center

By Gabriella Hartlaub, Noe Goldhaber and Annika Bereny

District 8 Ald. MGR and District 2 Ald. Juliana Bennett were shoved out of the Fluno Center alongside a Dane County board official by UWPD officers.

“I reached out numerous times to all of the officers that have been around the surrounding area, none of which has given a clear answer has taken responsibility,” Bennett said before being removed. “They are absolutely pretending like they have nothing in the know, and yet here they clearly have something going on, not communicating anything.

“They are escalating. They are the problem,” Bennett said.

The officers were seen putting on rubber gloves before pushing Govindarajan and Bennett. 

[10:29 p.m. CDT] Police spotted with zip-tie cuffs

By Gabriella Hartlaub

Police officers have been spotted with zip-tie handcuffs at the Fluno Center. There are approximately 30-50 officers.

[10:03 p.m. CDT] Police watching footage of Library Mall at Fluno Center

By Gabriella Hartlaub, Noe Goldhaber and Nicholas Sinn

Police officers in the Fluno Center are watching footage of the protest on Library Mall on a screen. A drone was spotted above Library Mall. A UWPD officer previously confirmed the drone belongs to UWPD.

Dane County Sherriff Kalvin Barrett just exited the Fluno Center.

[9:35 p.m. CDT] Police congregate at Fluno Center

By Gabriella Hartlaub, Amari Mbongwo, Nicholas Sinn and Noe Goldhaber

A group of approximately 15 police officers are congregating on the second floor of the Fluno Center. There are 20 police cars parked in the Fluno Center basement.

A drone has been reported over Library Mall. The drone belongs to the UWPD, an officer told the Cardinal.

Outside the Fluno Center, a group of cops are gathering. They were seen with batons and with a Panera bread bag.

Screen Shot 2024-04-29 at 9.35.37 PM.png
Nicholas SinnPolice officers in the Fluno Center at approximately 9:15 p.m. on April 29, 2024.

[8:53 p.m. CDT] Conversations with administration going poorly, says faculty protest leader

Kodie Engst and Noe Goldhaber

Samer Alatout, a community and environmental sociology professor, said conversations with administration officials have not gone well and that he anticipates a police presence. 

“I think you should be ready to get into your places as soon as possible once the command is given,” Alatout said.

“They really are insistent on enforcing [the rules against tents] even though the rules can be enforced in different ways,” Alatout told the Daily Cardinal.

Under Chapter 18 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code, Mnookin can authorize camping on university grounds. She has not, and the university did not respond to follow-ups on why she made that decision. 

Protesters have begun marching around the tents set up in Library Mall. There has been no sign of increased police presence as of yet.

[8:11 p.m. CDT] Protests continue as sun sets

Noe Goldhaber

It’s officially nighttime here at the encampment. A prayer has started, and the encampment continues to grow. There are at least 25 tents on Library Mall. SJP said in a message on Instagram that UWPD was “preparing to surround the encampment.”

UWPD did not respond to an immediate request for comment, and protesters at Library Mall could not confirm why they believed this. 

[7:32 p.m. CDT] Mnookin, campus leaders call on protesters to remove tents before discussing protesters’ demands

By Noe Goldhaber and Annika Bereny

A group of campus leaders, including Mnookin, Provost Charles Isbell, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion LaVar Charleston and Vice Chancellor for Finance Rob Cramer released a statement.

They said they will not meet to discuss the protesters’ demands until they comply with campus policy and state law by removing tents.

“We continue to ask the protesters to voluntarily comply with state law against tents and encampments on university property,” the statement read.

“I think the fact that admin has refused to listen to us seriously until we put up tents speaks louder, and it’s not surprising that the first thing they ask us to do is to take down tents,” SJP member Dahlia Saba said. “We do not want them to ignore demands, we demand that they take us seriously.”

“We have not seen substantial movement in our demands and so we are still committed to stay here indefinitely,” Saba said.

Kelly Tyrrell, UW-Madison’s director of communications and media relations, also confirmed that Reesor will be meeting with protest leaders this evening, following up on an earlier meeting. 

[7:15 p.m. CDT] UWPD officers spotted in Science Hall

By Bryna Goeking

Two UWPD officers were seen in Science Hall and told the Cardinal they were making sure no one was in the building, which closed at 5 p.m.

[6:50 p.m. CDT] Law student observer says protestors should have right to keep tents up 

By Bryna Goeking 

A third-year law student, who wished to remain anonymous, left Memorial Union when he saw the protest for the first time. Although the student was neutral on the protest, he said students should have the right to protest and keep the tents up.

“I don’t think it’s particularly disruptive in any way. It seems very natural for there to be political dialogue at a university campus,” he said. “I don’t see why they can’t keep the tents up if it’s peaceful.” 

[6:30 p.m. CDT] Faculty members have been in contact with UW-Madison chancellor

By Bryna Goeking 

Gender and women’s studies professor Sami Schalk confirmed faculty members have been in contact with administrators, including UW-Madison Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin.

“It does seem like they are holding firm on not allowing tents but otherwise support peaceful protesting. We are waiting to see,” Schalk said.

Schalk said she has been working alongside other faculty to help fundraise for food, potential bail and other supplies to ensure students’ privacy. 

[6:24 p.m. CDT] Dean of Students releases new pamphlets on camping policy

By Noe Goldhaber 

Dean of Students Christina Olstad and other members of the Protest Response Team have begun distributing a new pamphlet on violations of protest policy specific to violations of camping policy, blocking building entrances and erecting structures on university land.

There are a growing number of tents on Library Mall. It is unclear how violations of this policy will be enforced.

Protest rules sheet distributed to student protestors by Dean of Students Christina Olstad at about 6:20 p.m. on April 29, 2024.

[6:11 p.m. CDT] Faculty have discussed possibility of being arrested

By Nicholas Sinn 

Professor Samer Alatout told the Cardinal faculty members at the protest have discussed the possibility of getting arrested and that some faculty might “be willing to be arrested.”

“We’re here to support the students, so whatever we can do to support the students will do, even if it means being arrested,” Alatout said.

[4:28 p.m. CDT] Wisconsin State Patrol arrives  

By Gabriella Hartlaub, Noe Goldhaber and Anna Kleiber 

At least seven Wisconsin State Patrol officers have stationed themselves by the Hasler Laboratory of Limnology. They have a trailer containing state-owned equipment with them.

Police Sgt. Aaron Gross told the Cardinal the Wisconsin State Patrol was here at the request of UWPD. 

Anna KleiberState police officers stationed near the Hasler Laboratory of Limnology on April 29, 2024.
Anna KleiberA state police car stationed near the Hasler Laboratory of Limnology on April 29, 2024.

[3:43 p.m. CDT] SJP releases schedule for Monday evening 

By  Amari Mbongwo 

SJP UW-Madison released its “liberated zone schedule” via Instagram.

A show out for Palestine is scheduled for 4 p.m. followed by a teach-in at 5 p.m. The evening continues with meditation at 7 p.m. and prayer at 8 p.m.

Support for the overnight encampment will begin at 10 p.m.

Protesters continue to build more tents around Library Mall with a total of 18 tents present. They have also directed community members to support them through donations.

[2:30 p.m. CDT] UW-Madison Hillel releases a statement

By Noe Goldhaber

UW-Madison Hillel released on a statement via Instagram offering space at Hillel tonight at 7:30 p.m.

“When a cause aligns with terrorist organizations taking pride in the protests and actions, and when language calls for violence against an entire identity, religion and people — it becomes hate and discrimination,” the statement read.

Protests at UW-Madison have remained peaceful, and chants have not targeted Jewish students.

The statement also defended UW-Madison’s commitment to free speech and expression. 

[1:30 p.m. CDT] Professor calls for university to avoid escalation

By Gabriella Hartlaub and Bryna Goeking

Samer Alatout, a community and environmental sociology professor, told the Cardinal faculty members supportive of the protesters have been looking to avoid escalation between the protesters and the university.

“We’re trying to argue with [the] administration that encampment shouldn’t be a big deal and that we are all against escalation,” Alatout told the Cardinal.

Alatout said he is committed to helping the students, whom he gives credit for organizing the encampment and rally.

“I’m in support of the students and the right to express themselves freely, to challenge whatever conventional wisdom that we have about world affairs, and in support of their demands for the university to take action on a specific issue,” Alaout said.

Alatout said the organizers are against violence.

[12:50 p.m. CDT] Protesters hold safety demonstration

By Noe Goldhaber and Amari Mbongwo

Members of the encampment held a safety demonstration where they discussed their Popular University for Gaza encampment rules. They also advised protesters to refrain from talking to UWPD or campus administration and shared their goal to collaborate on decisions regarding the encampment.

The protesters said more specific safety rules for those who plan to stay overnight will be discussed later, and student prayer groups may come later this afternoon.

[12:20 p.m. CDT] Faculty member expresses support for student protesters

By Noe Goldhaber

Laila Amine, an associate professor of English, told The Daily Cardinal “it’s an unclear statement by the university of what constitutes a protest, like adding signs blocking the view, blocking entrances.”

“I’m here for that reason, to make sure students have the right to protest and their freedom of speech is protected,” Amine said. “As faculty I think that’s really important to do.”

MPD is now also on scene.

[11:55 a.m. CDT] Looking forward: protest afternoon schedule

By Bryna Goeking

An organizer announced there will be a safety meeting at 12:30 p.m. A teach-in will be held at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. followed by a meditation at 6 p.m.

Around this time, three more UWPD officers arrived wearing high-visibility vests.

One protester said they will stay at the encampment as long as necessary. Food and water is still being handed out.

[11:35 a.m. CDT] Local priest weights in on protest

By Annika Bereny

A local Lutheran priest who wore a keffiyeh over his priest’s collar said he hopes to see more faith leaders come out in support of the student protesters. “I’m here because I care about liberation, and I am against genocide,” he said.

[11:20 a.m. CDT] Rally wraps up, encampment persists

By Noe Goldhaber

The rally has wrapped up and protesters and community members are congregating on Library Mall. They are writing out their encampment guidelines. The encampment is still up.  

[11:11 a.m. CDT] Protesters demand UW’s Foundation investments disclosure 

By Noe Goldhaber and Annika Bereny

Graduate student Dahlia Saba is a member of SJP and the UW-Madison Liberated Zone, what protesters are calling the encampment on Library Mall. Saba said protesters are demanding “UW-Madison end its complicity in this oncoming apartheid by disclosing the University of Wisconsin Foundation’s investments.

“Second, in ending all investments in companies that are directly supporting the ongoing violence in Israel against Palestine and in academic collaborations with Israeli institutions that normalize this apartheid regime,” she said.

Saba said the encampments will continue until the administration takes the protesters’ demands seriously.

“They have not made any indication until this encampment began that they were willing to take this seriously, and that’s where we are today,” Saba said.

[11:00 a.m. CDT] Counter-protester ushered away after brief interruption

By Noe Goldhaber  

One counter-protester approached the protest and was steered away by UWPD. He held a sign saying “Hamas hates Palestine” on one side and “terrorism is bad” on the other.

Nicholas SinnDavid Skadron holds sign saying “Hamas Hates Palestinians” while being ushered to a “safer place” by UWPD police at a pro-Palestine protest on April 29, 2024.

[10:35 a.m. CDT] A student displays opposition to protest

By Bryna Goeking 

A junior at UW-Madison who wished to remain anonymous went up to the protest and gave a thumbs down. He was promptly turned away by UWPD.

The student was heading to church when he saw the protest. 

“I just heard ‘intifada,’ which means basically to take over and kill. I don’t want that for this country, I don’t want that for any other country,” he said. “We come here to learn, and all these people are ruining it.” 

No other individuals have attempted to counter-protest at this time.

[10:26 a.m. CDT] Protesters list encampment rules

By Bryna Goeking

The encampment is growing. More tents and chairs are being set up. 

Groups are bringing protesters water and snacks. 

A protester is listing community rules. They include no littering, no alcohol or drug use and to respect personal boundaries. 

Protesters were instructed to not share details of the encampment with administration or police and to not engage with counter-protests. 

UWPD officials are walking around and taking phone calls. 

[10:04 a.m. CDT] Protesters advocate for privacy

By Bryna Goeking and Annika Bereny

A protester is walking around the group writing the number for the UW-Madison chapter of the National Lawyers Guild on the arms of protesters.

An unidentified protester is instructing protesters to turn off face ID and biometrics on their phones.

“We will not leave this field until we divest,” the protester said. “There will be boycotts until Palestine is free.”

Palestine Protest APril 29
Nicholas SinnProtest organizer writes lawyer’s phone numbers on protesters hands on April 29, 2024. 

[10:00 a.m. CDT] SJP UW-Madison releases demands

By Gabriella Hartlaub and Noe Goldhaber

SJP UW-Madison released their demands on Instagram:

  1. “Divest occupation, borders and prisons from Palestine to Teejop, by divesting from all companies on the AFSC list.
  2. Disclose all of UW Foundation’s investments.
  3. Cut all ties with Israeli institutions, including the binational agricultural research and development fund, Mosse Graduation Exchange Fellowship and study abroad programs in Israel.
  4. Call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire to end the ongoing genocide and an end to the siege on Gaza.
  5. Get cops off campus.
  6. Stop the land grabs and cease expansion, in order to house our community.”

A graduate student said these demands have been delivered to Dean of Students Christina Olstad and forwarded to the chancellor and vice chancellor of student affairs.

Palestine Protest 4/29
Nicholas SinnDean of Students Dean Olstad and vice chancellor for student affairs Fernie Rodriguez talk with UWPD at Pro-Palestine protest on April 29, 2024. 

[9:35 a.m. CDT] Protesters set up tents on Library Mall

By Noe Goldhaber

Protesters have begun to put up tents on Library Mall. There are 10 tents up as of 9:48 a.m. 

Protesters are chanting “free, free Palestine.” UWPD officer Adam Boardman said the department is waiting for the situation to be safe before delivering a warning about the tents.

“We’re gonna let them just sit for a minute, and when we can give a warning we’ll do that, but they are welcome to stay here and have their voice heard,” Boardman said.

Palestine tents.jpg
Nicholas SinnStudent protesters at UW-Madison set up tents on Library Mall on Monday, April 29, 2024, as part of a pro-Palestine protest.

[9:21 a.m. CDT] Speakers address crowd of more than 100

By Annika Bereny

Speakers have begun to address the sizable crowd of roughly 100 people.

“We demand you uphold your so-called values [of diversity, equity and inclusion] by revoking your complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people. We will not stay silent in the face of an occupation,” said a speaker who did not give their name. Signs are being held up that say “Genocide is not a Mitzvah” and “Where is the ‘never again’ for Gaza?

“This is the 205th day of genocide,” an organizer said. Chants of “Shame” echo off the walls of Library Mall

The Madison Area Democratic Socialists are here in support of the rally. Honks can be heard as cars drive past. A group of protesters also are holding a sign reading,“ divest from occupation, borders and prisons from Palestine to Teejop.” 

The group continues to grow.

Nicholas SinnStudents form a human protection circle around encampments supporting Free Palestine on April 29, 2024.

[9:00 a.m. CDT] Protest begins on Library Mall

By Noe Goldhaber and Annika Bereny

Good morning from Library Mall. 

Rain is trickling down. A group of approximately 30 faculty and staff just walked down State Street holding a sign that said, “Faculty and staff support our students.” They were joined on Library Mall by about 50 student protesters. 

Dean of Students Christian Olstad is nearby, along with UWPD officers.

Palestine Protest 4/29
Nicholas SinnStudents protest for pro-palestine on Library Mall on April 29, 2024.

What are the protesters’ demands?

Protesters at UW-Madison are demanding the University of Wisconsin System divest from BlackRock, an investment management company with ties to the arms industry. The UW System has approximately $500 million invested in BlackRock, according to a 2022 report by the UW Board of Regents Business & Finance Committee, which protesters have used to support their assertion UW-Madison is “complicit in genocide.” 

Protesters also targeted the presence of weapons manufacturers at UW-Madison career fairs. In February, the participation of BAE Systems, Caterpillar and General Dynamics in an engineering career fair sparked protests for the companies’ alleged ties to the Israeli military. 

SJP has called for UW-Madison to protect Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and marginalized students on campus, ending financial and social ties to “Zionist genocide supporters and war profiteers” and to stop inviting “war criminals” to speak on campus. 

SJP announced the protest last week during their annual solidarity week. UW-Madison Dean of Students Christina Olstad and UWPD Interim Chief Brent Plisch sent an email to all students on protest rules on Friday after SJP’s announcement.

What has the university said so far?

Olstad and Plisch affirmed their support for free speech and expression and directed students to UW-Madison’s Protest Guidelines. They also sent Chapter 18 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code that prohibits camping on university property without the permission of a university’s chief administrative officer, Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin at UW-Madison, who does not plan to authorize encampments. 

Olstad and Plisch also said failing to abide by these policies “can and will have consequences, both within our code of student conduct and more broadly under Wisconsin law.” 

Mnookin also addressed protest policy at a student media roundtable last Tuesday.

“We support free speech on campus. There are also limits on free speech in general and some limits on protest. And we appreciate that, for the most part, protests here have stayed within those limits,” Mnookin said.

Tyler Katzenberger of The Daily Cardinal contributed to this report.

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Annika Bereny

Annika Bereny is the Special Pages Editor for the Daily Cardinal and specializes in state news and politics reporting. Follow her on Twitter at @annikabereny.

Gavin Escott

Gavin Escott is the Campus News Editor for the Daily Cardinal. Throughout his time at the Cardinal, he’s covered protests, breaking news, and written in-depth features on Wisconsin politics and higher education. He is the former producer of the Cardinal Call podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @gav_escott.

Noe Goldhaber

Noe Goldhaber is the college news editor and former copy chief for the Daily Cardinal. She is a statistics major and has reported on a wide range of campus issues. Follow her on Twitter at @noegoldhaber.

Gabriella Hartlaub

Gabriella Hartlaub is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. She also reports state politics and life & style stories. Follow her on Twitter at @gabihartlaub.

Bryna Goeking

Bryna Goeking is an arts editor for The Daily Cardinal. She also reports on campus news. Follow her on twitter @BrynaGoeking.





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