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News / Northwest

WWU administration sets deadline for anti-war protesters to remove campus encampment

By Robert Mittendorf, The Bellingham Herald
Published: May 29, 2024, 7:34am

BELLINGHAM — Western Washington University officials told students and others that they have two days to end their protest camp against the war in Gaza and the university’s ties to Israel and U.S. defense manufacturers.

Negotiations were continuing late Tuesday afternoon over the students’ demands but university spokesman Jonathan Higgins told The Bellingham Herald that WWU’s administration set a Thursday deadline for protesters to leave the tent camp on the lawn between Old Main and Viking Union.

“Talks are continuing with the representatives of the student encampment this afternoon. They began at noon and are in progress. We have given the encampment a deadline of Thursday, May 30, at 5 p.m. to clear out,” Higgins said in an email.

It was unclear what would happen if protesters remained after the deadline.

In statements posted to their social media, protesters have shown increasing frustration that their demands haven’t been met.

“Admin continues to stonewall our demand negotiations after a 6.5-hour meeting on Friday,” protesters said Monday on their Instagram account, WWUDivestApartheid.

“We will not rest, we will not back down,” states a post on the Instagram account.

A rally was planned Tuesday morning outside Old Main, and talks with the administration followed.

Some 50 to 60 protesters, including WWU students and others, pitched about 20 tents on May 14. They held a protest rally and march on May 17.

Since that time University Police have recorded several instances of vandalism with slogans protesting the war in Gaza. A Jewish student reported to police that they were spat upon and followed home on May 17, as they walked past the protest wearing a Star of David necklace. That incident that was being investigated as a hate crime.

Last week, Jewish faculty, students and others told The Herald that the administration wasn’t taking their safety seriously.

Several college and university campuses across the U.S. have seen similar protest encampments in recent weeks as the war in Gaza continues, sparked by the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack and atrocities that killed 1,200 civilians in Israel, including 45 Americans.

An estimated 36,000 Gaza residents, including many women and children, have been killed in the fighting, according to the Hamas-run government health ministry. Hamas — which the U.S. and other nations classify as a terrorist organization — still holds more than 100 hostages.

The tent camp emerged after WWU President Sabah Randhawa rejected a series of protesters’ demands, according to social media.

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