Case Western Reserve students maintain week-long encampment

By Martha Grevatt
May 7, 2024

On the morning of April 29, students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood launched the first Palestine Solidarity Encampment in this city. Their main demands are for CWRU to disclose its financial ties to Israeli apartheid and to divest from those investments. The University chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which organized the encampment, is also protesting its suspension as a campus organization over allegations that it posted leaflets in a location where leaflets are not allowed.

Later that morning, CWRU police and University Circle police acted in concert to try to shut the encampment down. The University Circle police arrested and brutally assaulted 21 participants.

The first victory for the students was that all of the arrestees were released without charge.

The second victory came when, still on the first day, police ordered the encampment dismantled. Hundreds of students and community supporters responded to a call to action, and police agreed to allow the students to stay and for supporters to stay until 8 p.m. and return at 8:00 the next morning — but only after all of the tents were taken down and removed from the Kelvin Smith Library Oval, which students renamed Hind’s Oval. This was in honor of 6-year-old Hind Rajab, murdered by the Israeli Occupation Forces in Gaza on Jan. 29.

By May 1, students were leaving the tents in place and non-student supporters were not leaving at the designated time. On May 2, CWRU President Eric Kaler sent students an email, stating: “The protest on KSL Oval is no longer approved. The protesters’ continued presence and occupation is considered trespassing … These actions may also result in prosecution of protesters for criminal trespass.”

In response to Kaler’s threats, an appeal to “March on CWRU” went out to supporters on May 2. Hundreds of students, along with members of the Palestinian community and anti-war activists, heeded the call. That evening, demonstrators moved the barricades that police had put up on the perimeter of the KSL Oval lawn. Hind’s Oval was expanded to include the sidewalk around it.

Below a sign posted by CWRU saying “No trespassing private property” is a handmade sign reading: “No private property on stolen land.” A sign about sexual assault awareness blocks the other “No trespassing” sign. In other words, students are ignoring the signs!

In the next few hours, the entire sidewalk was covered with chalked slogans, voicing solidarity with Palestine and demanding CWRU divest from Israeli apartheid. Other comments drew links with “Stop Cop City!” in Atlanta and the fight against capitalism in general.

Kaler’s threats have so far not been carried out — a third victory for the occupation — and the presence of campus police outside Hind’s Oval has been subdued. On May 4, around 9 p.m., students again expanded the encampment to the edge of the sidewalk on Euclid Avenue, the main thoroughfare on Cleveland’s East Side. There have been no arrests or incidents of police brutality since the first day.

Supporters have provided the occupiers with food, water, ice, first aid supplies, tents, tarps, blankets and storage bins — and whatever the organizers say is most needed on a given day.