News & Opinion

UNC Charlotte Gaza Solidarity Encampment Torn Down Before Protest

Protest march planned for Tuesday evening

The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at UNC Charlotte
The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at UNC Charlotte on May 2. (Photo by Annie Keough)

The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at UNC Charlotte was raided and broken up early Tuesday morning by campus police aided by CMPD, leading to the arrest of one student, according to witnesses on the ground. 

Authorities raided the encampment at 6:20 a.m. Tuesday, the 14th day of the student-led protest, clearing all items and personal belongings from the occupied area. The raid preceded a planned rally and march that had been planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday evening.

According to a post from the encampment’s official Instagram feed at 7:40 a.m., authorities gave the students two verbal warnings with very little time in between before they started the raid.

“Many students and community members did not have enough time to gather their things before they were forced to leave or face the threat of arrest,” the post read. “One student was detained and the rest were forced to disperse.”

The encampment also posted two videos at 8:28 a.m. and 8:35 a.m., as reported by the university’s student-run newspaper Niner Times. The photos and videos showed nearly 21 campus police officers at the encampment taking down and collecting tents and supplies and one student being taken away with their hands zip-tied behind their back, Niner Times reported.

The student who was arrested posted bail Tuesday afternoon and at the time of this writing were processed for release.

The student protestors set up the encampment in the quad outside of the College of Health and Human Services and the Cato College of Education on April 29 and were met with continuous efforts to counteract or shut down the site by administration and counter-protestors.

A dry-erase board held at the now-cleared encampment shows demands and a daily itinerary. (Photo by Annie Keough0

Students are demanding the university and UNC system as a whole “disclose, divest, defend and declare” — disclose institutional expenditures, divest from companies and projects with ties to Israel and declare the crisis in Gaza a genocide.

“The school has responded by constant threats of arrest and suspension if we do not comply with their arbitrary rules,” a student representative told Queen City Nerve. “[On May 1], they turned sprinklers on for nearly six hours to flood the area we were occupying and we are constantly surveilled by their police.”

Following the sprinkler incident, organizers relocated the encampment to the quad in front of the Fretwell and Cato buildings, where they were met with counter-protestors including some with right-wing student organization Turning Point US, who set up American flags around the encampment. 

The students and allies at the encampment have taken part in prayer, presentations, encampment meetings and wellness checks, along with two peaceful marches held without incident. 

Non-participating students roaming campus amid exam week did not seem to experience any major disruptions due to the protest during recent visits from Queen City Nerve.

The site of the encampment following Tuesday morning’s raid. (Photo by Justin LaFrancois)

UNC Charlotte Chancellor Sharon L. Gaber announced the removal of the encampment in a university-wide email sent after the raid on Tuesday.

“What began as peaceful protesting has transitioned over the past several days to intentionally and repeatedly violating University policy, despite repeated warnings by our Demonstration Activity Resource Team and other University personnel,” the email stated.

“Violations were highlighted verbally and in writing, and exhaustive efforts were made to encourage protestors to exercise their right to free speech in a manner that respects the rights of those not protesting to do their work and pursue their education.”

Gaber said the protesters’ tents, fencing, displays and other structures violated University Policy 601.6, Scheduling University Facilities, and University Policy 601.9, Sales, Solicitations, Distribution of Materials and Campus Displays.

“These actions are not free speech,” the statement said, “…they disrupt campus operations and pose a threat to campus safety.”

The march planned for 5 p.m. Tuesday was canceled in favor of a gathering in front of the Kennedy building at 6:15 p.m. During a visit to the site on Tuesday afternoon, two UNC Charlotte police vehicles were stationed around the lawn.

Police near the former site of the UNC Charlotte encampment on Tuesday afternoon. (Photo by Justin LaFrancois)

In a letter shared with protesters on Monday, administration warned that “any disruptive behavior outside of [the 49th acre student tailgate facility] will be considered trespassing and may result in immediate disciplinary action.”

For students, disciplinary actions may include suspension and expulsion up to criminal charges. Faculty members have also reached out to Queen City Nerve expressing their concern that the letter serves as a warning to them not to get involved in the issue or voice support for student protesters.* 

Read more: Organizer Jibril Hough Discusses Pro-Palestine Rally in Uptown Charlotte (2023)

Queen City Nerve will be on UNC Charlotte’s campus at 5 p.m. for the scheduled protest march. Stay tuned to our Facebook account for live updates if necessary. 

CLARIFICATION: An email newsletter sent by Queen City Nerve on May 8 that features this article mistakenly states that UNC Charlotte administration sent all faculty members a letter with warnings of repercussions if they support the student protesters. Faculty members were not sent this letter directly, but voiced these concerns after seeing the letter given to student organizers who then posted it publicly. 

SUPPORT OUR WORK: Get better connected and become a member of Queen City Nerve to support local journalism for as little as $5 per month. Our community journalism helps inform you through a range of diverse voices.

Related Articles

One Comment

  1. In case UNCC faculty and staff are checking out this article, the National Lawyers Guild has a free online training today (Wednesday, 5/8/24) from 4-6 PM Eastern on how faculty/staff can defend student activists in campus disciplinary hearings. You can check the National Lawyers Guild’s social media accounts, such as nationallawyersguild on Instagram, for the info and the confidential form to sign up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *