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University of Utah campus protest recap

Over two days this week, crowds have gathered on the University of Utah’s campus to protest the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

On April 29, more than 200 protestors gathered on the steps of the John R. Park Building at 4 p.m. for 30 minutes, before quickly turning around and walking the few steps to the northeast section of Presidents Circle to set up more than a dozen tents on the grass.

After hours of negotiations between Academic Senate leaders, a few faculty and student protestors failed to persuade the protestors to disperse, police played a series of six warnings over a loudspeaker at 9 p.m.:

“We recognize your constitutional right to free speech on our campus. Students, faculty, staff and community members, have the right to express your viewpoint and the University of Utah administration has heard you.”

“You do not, have the right to set up structures or camp overnight on university property. You are violating Utah State Law Administrative Code and University of Utah Speech Policy. Please take your tents down immediately. If your tents are not taken down, they will be removed by law enforcement.”

“There will be criminal consequences for students, faculty, staff and community members who are breaking these laws.”

After the protestors encircled the tents with locked arms at 11 p.m., officers from the University of Utah Police Department, Salt Lake City, West Valley City, Utah Highway Patrol and Unified Police moved in to disperse the crowd, dismantle the tents and remove pallets of water, toilet paper, buckets of waste and other debris. By 1 a.m., the campus had been cleared.

The university issued this statement on the morning of April 30: University of Utah President Taylor Randall’s statement on protestor encampment

And this statement after the second protest: University statement on April 30, 2024 protests

“I ask for the community’s patience as we manage a complex situation and balance free expression with lawful conduct,” said President Taylor Randall. “We are investing time and resources now to support free speech and prevent further escalation.”

Protestors gathered again at 6 p.m. on April 30 at the Park Building. Leading up to that event, the university handed out flyers identifying lawful guidelines for protests, including QR codes to supporting resources. After police arrested a single protest leader around 6:10, the crowd left campus and gathered in front of the Salt Lake County Metro Jail, 3415 S. 900 West. The protestors did not return to campus.

In all, 21 have been arrested for their behavior at the two protests. Of those, 15 are currently considered “unaffiliated.” Five are current students, a few are former employees and one is a current employee. That breakdown could change as the investigation and confirmation of affiliations continue.

The charges they face could include trespassing, disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and resisting arrest.

“Utah college campuses around the state are not exempt from the significant unrest that currently exists in our country and world,” said Keith Squires, U chief safety officer. “Campuses serve as a stage and forum for not just students, but for members of the community who want their voice to be heard. We honor all voices, but the right to speech on our campus must occur within the confines of state law and campus policies.”