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Statement: The People’s Art Institute Denounces Chicago Police Attack on Student Encampment

On May 4, the administration of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) sent Chicago Police Department (CPD) and SWAT police to attack a student encampment. We republish the encampment’s statement recounting the events and denouncing the repression.

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Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The People’s Art Institute, constituted by SAIC students, announced our encampment situated in the AIC’s North Garden, on Saturday morning, May 4, at 11:30 A.M. The goals of the encampment were clear: to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and to demand SAIC and AIC divest from entities profiting off of the occupation and genocide in Palestine.

Students began setting up and by 12:05 P.M., CPD was onsite and an arrest warning was issued. CPD started kettling protestors on the sidewalk at the corner of Monroe and Michigan and removed them from the North side of the garden with extreme force. As of this writing, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability is investigating CPD use of excessive force.

At around 2:00 P.M., SAIC Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Martin Berger began discussions with PAI liaisons, who voiced the encampment’s demands of disclosure and divestment in the genocide. Berger proposed that students in the encampment could temporarily avoid police confrontation and continue administrative negotiations if we moved to the front of the 280 building on Columbus Drive by 6:00 A.M. PAI liaisons requested this be pushed to 10:00 A.M., to which Berger said he would consider. The liaisons emphasized that The People’s Art Institute is a non-hierarchical, democratic community, and asked for time to make this decision collectively without the immediate threat of police violence. To be clear, the liaisons did not at any point reject an offer from the administration. They only requested changes to be considered.

At 3:30 P.M., liaisons gathered with those in the garden to discuss the information in a community forum. Around 30 minutes later, the PAI liaisons were suddenly informed that not only was the 10:00 A.M. timeline declined, but also that the 6:00 A.M. offer was rescinded entirely. Also at 3:30 P.M., according to CPD official media, AIC requested for CPD to enter the garden and arrest those in the garden while we were waiting for a response from Berger. At 4:00 P.M., Berger informed us that CPD and SWAT were coming to make arrests.

After violently breaking apart a chain of protestors in front of the gates, SWAT and police entered the encampment and began their violent mass arrest. Arrestees have reported a range of brutal treatment from CPD/SWAT: being slammed onto the ground, hit, kneeled and stepped on, dragged, aggressively grabbed, and elbowed. Many of those arrested were injured, and two arrested students needed to be taken to the ER. 68 PAI protestors were arrested and the encampment was cleared out, ultimately leading to its termination at around 5:00 P.M. The majority of those arrested were SAIC students.

Leadership at SAIC and AIC have since released statements claiming they acted against us in the name of safety with no mention of the reasons for our encampment: to stand against the genocide in Palestine and to demand disclosure and divestment from entities involved in the genocide. To hypocritically invoke “safety” while calling for the brutalization of student protestors and profiting off of Crown family weapons manufacturing money is shameful. We reject the AIC’s terms and we reject their false narrative about our Palestine solidarity encampment.

We want to emphasize that as the AIC sent SWAT forces to brutalize protestors taking a stand for Palestine, people in Rafah are currently being bombed by Israel while also receiving evacuation orders that threaten an imminent, lethal attack. We greatly appreciate those who contributed to jail support with their presence and monetary donations. It enabled us to greet our arrested community members with care, and we now ask that you redirect that care directly to those in Gaza by donating to evacuation aid @operationolivebranch

Long Live The People’s Art Institute.

This is only the beginning.

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