FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News from a multicultural coalition of 55 student organizations at the University of Michigan
Saturday, November 18, 2023
40 Students Arrested Seeking Meeting with University of Michigan President
ANN ARBOR, Mich– Friday, November 17, 2023— During the Global Day of Action for Palestine on Friday, the University of Michigan police arrested 40 students protesting against the University’s role in supporting Israel’s genocide in Gaza. The students, who represent a broad multicultural coalition of over 55 campus organizations, sat in University President Santa Ono’s office for 6-hours. They were there to request a meeting to demand that the university divest its endowment, worth $17.9 billion — the ninth largest in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world — of companies profiting from Israel’s ongoing crimes against humanity, such as Lockheed Martin and Boeing. For the last month, they had been exhausting every possible administrative option for scheduling this meeting with Ono, and have been repeatedly ignored and dismissed.
In an act of civil disobedience, the students refused to leave the office until the President would agree to meet with them. Police responded aggressively, grabbing students for processing before releasing them with trespassing citations. Hundreds of other students occupied the administration building in solidarity, while hundreds more chanted outside of the building for hours. “I’m proud to be part of this coalition that represents thousands of students from all three University of Michigan campuses, and student groups from many faiths and ethnicities,” said Yazen Alomary, an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, “Divestment is an issue that is clearly important to all of us.”
The University called in police from over 10 Michigan jurisdictions, including but not limited to University police, Ann Arbor, Eastern Michigan, Pittsfield Township, Van Buren Township, Washtenaw County, Ypsilanti, and the State Troopers. Inside the building, U-M police deprived students of basic necessities such as water and bathroom access.
“We pleaded with the cops to allow for water to be brought in, but they refused, and a student fainted,” said Zaynab Elkolaly, an undergraduate student and part of Students Allied for Freedom & Equality (SAFE), also known as the University’s local Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter. “Medics had to be brought in. I’m appalled to attend a university that so blatantly disregards its students’ health and well-being.” As students were first entering the building, Zaynab, who sustained injuries after having her hijab ripped off while being body-slammed to the ground and handcuffed by police, said “they hide like cowards behind their guns and tasers and fists because they know they’re no match for our people power.”
“We’ve spoken to many other student leaders on campus who always tell me that President Ono is only a phone call away,” said SAFE President Salma Hamamy. “It’s outrageous that instead of meeting with us, Ono called on dozens of police precincts to remove us from a public campus space. This is our university, and we deserve the right to speak to our president!”
This follows several actions U-M students have undertaken, starting in early October, to pressure the University to divest, including: a vigil, a national walk-out for Gaza, occupation of the university’s administration building, a die-in on the central campus quad, and an action at President Santa Ono’s house. These mass actions won them a meeting with a handful of university administrators in early November.
In addition to the request for the University of Michigan’s to divest the University’s endowment from Israel, the coalition has three other main demands: 1) conduct a formal inquiry into anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and Islamophobic racism and harassment; 2) support and reaffirm the faculty and staff members who are being vilified for their support of Palestine; and 3) release a formal statement that clearly defines the massacre in Gaza as a genocidal ethnic cleansing campaign led by Israel and aided by the United States.
“At least eight of us who were arrested on Friday night are Jewish,” said Alex Sepulveda, an undergraduate student and member of Jewish Voices for Peace UMich. “As a proud Jew, I refuse to allow the generational trauma of my ancestors to be instrumentalized for genocide.”
List of 55 Student Organizations in the Coalition
- Students Allied for Freedom and Equality
- Arab Student Association
- Graduate Employees Organization 3550
- La Casa
- Black Student Union
- United Asian American Organizations
- Native American Student Association
- Filipino American Student Association
- Student Community Of Progressive Empowerment
- African Students Association
- Jewish Voice for Peace
- Young Democratic Socialists of America
- United Students Against Sweatshops
- Oceanic Students Association
- Sunrise Ann Arbor
- Warp at Michigan
- South Asian Awareness Network
- Students Organize for Syria
- The Muslim Coalition
- Muslim Student Association
- Muslim Graduate Student Association
- Islamic Society of Ahlulbayt
- North African Student Association
- Syrian Student Association
- Yemeni Student Association
- Jordanian Student Association
- Egyptian Student Association
- Bangladeshi Student Association
- Pakistani Student Association
- Indian Muslim Student Association
- Students of Color in Public Policy
- Iraqi American Union
- Arab MENA Student Psychological Association
- Arab Business Society
- Lebanese Student Association
- Students of Color interested in Law
- Epsilon Alpha Sigma Sorority Inc.
- Omega Beta Eta, Arab Fraternity Inc.
- Zeta Chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc.
- Lambda Theta Phi, Latin Fraternity Inc.
- Palestinian Empowerment Foundation – UM Medical School
- Law Students for Justice in Palestine – UM Law School
- Here Earning a Destiny through Honesty, Eagerness, and Determination of Self
- Michigan in Color
- Beta Eta Chapter of Chi Upsilon Sigma National Latin Sorority, Inc.
- Community Led Interpretation For Medical Equity
- Undergraduate Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union at UM
- Michigan Institute for Progressive Policy
- Inter-Cooperative Council of Ann Arbor
- People’s Michigan
- Dil Se
- University of Michigan Sikh Student Association
- Muslim Business Student Association
- Muslim Law Students Association
- Uproot: Transcending and Radicalizing Environmental Education