At around 5:30 this morning, Wayne State University police with riot gear, batons, and shields entered and removed a peaceful encampment set up in protest of the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel, according to widespread media reports and videos posted to social media. The University said that the encampment, which was in place for about a week, was cleared because of “legal, health and safety, and operational challenges.” The University’s vague rationale does not justify the extreme tactics used by the police in removing the protestors, which include reports of tearing down tents, arrests of peaceful protesters, and the uniquely offensive removal of at least one protester’s hijab. This unnecessarily confrontational police response not only inflicts physical and dignitary harm, but it also flies in the face of the rich racial, religious, and cultural diversity that Wayne State University embodies.   

The University also said that the encampment, which occupied a small grassy area of campus, and which did not obstruct pedestrian walkways, was removed in part because it made some members of the campus community feel unwelcome. Engaging with student activism and grappling with different, even painful ideas and world views is an essential part of the University learning experience, and the University has a responsibility to allow students to openly express their political views--even when it makes others uncomfortable. The discomfort of some is no justification for the abrupt clearing of the peaceful encampment with militarized police force, nor is it an acceptable rationale for the suppression of the protesters’ speech on issues of public importance. In fact, it is a foundational First Amendment principle that speech cannot be suppressed merely because it makes some listeners uncomfortable. 

The University can, and should, take appropriate measures to ensure that its campus does not become a hostile educational environment for such students and to respond to documented incidents of antisemitism—just as it should respond to acts of Islamophobia, anti-immigrant acts of hate, and other actions targeted at students because of their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. But suppressing the speech of some community members in order to please others is not an appropriate approach. 

It is also troubling that the police clearing suddenly happened while the University was seemingly making progress towards meeting with the protesters. The sudden overnight use of police force only serves to escalate tensions between students and the administration, intimidates those who would participate in future protests, and discourages meaningful dialogue on campus.  Such actions chill all manner of speech and contradict the University’s stated intention to welcome protest and dialogue. 

If any protestors believe their civil rights were violated during this raid, we encourage them to contact us at