Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Police charge 16 protesters after forcing Gaza solidarity camp from UNM Student Union Building • Source New Mexico

The University of New Mexico Gaza Solidarity Encampment started its ninth day on Tuesday with part of the camp inside the main campus Student Union Building.

By 4 a.m., police destroyed the five tents set up by the group demanding UNM divest from the state of Israel, and New Mexico State Police dressed in black riot gear took several people into custody.

As of Tuesday morning, police had charged 16 people, each with one count of criminal trespass and one count of wrongful use of public property, UNM spokesperson Cinnamon Blair said. If any of the protesters have attorneys, none had officially appeared in court to represent them as of early Tuesday afternoon, court records show.

Police officers shoved four other people to the ground and detained them inside the building.

Signs posted on the SUB’s doors said the building is closed for the day.

New Mexico State Police stand behind a barrier wall with writing in chalk at the University of New Mexico Student Union Building on April 30, 2024. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

This action followed similar ones taken by police at the outdoor encampment set up on a grass stretch on the northwest end of the university’s Duck Pond. There, people who have stayed overnight reported multiple instances in the past week where officers from the UNM Police Department arrived around 3 a.m to tell people to leave. Several have said police destroyed or confiscated their tents.

Initially, protesters set up tents and gazebos. During the camp’s first night, police posted written notices on the tents from Provost James Paul Holloway telling them they had to remove all the camping equipment.

Tuesday’s arrests started with a rally and march on Monday at the outdoor encampment. A crowd of families, students and alumni demanded a ceasefire in Gaza. By 7 p.m., the group surrounded the second floor terrace in the Student Union Building and set off on several chants that shook the ground.

Students and community members chanting https://t.co/qrqT0k5v7E pic.twitter.com/8Y3Db5JFRY

— Shaun Griswold (@shaun505) April 30, 2024

At 8:30 p.m. the university sent a campus-wide alert that said the building would close 30 minutes early due to “protesters occupying the SUB.”

Police asked people to avoid the area but that didn’t stop curious onlookers, including a group gleefully recording from outside while police confronted the crowd in the SUB.

Supporters also arrived to drop off donations or join the sit-in at the protest inside the building. One student asked their friend, “Is this worth getting arrested for?”

Several times in the evening, organizers shared advice and expectations if someone was arrested. Another collected emergency contact information for people in case of arrest.

Many hit the books, did homework or studied for upcoming finals.

That all stopped when police arrived inside the SUB at 3 a.m. and promptly issued a 30-minute notice to the group to leave the building. Several police attempted to enter the main foyer where the tents were located through a side door on the west end of the building to make the announcement. Protesters set up a blockade with chairs and other furniture.

Police are now telling the crowd inside the UNM student union building to leave. They arrived just before 3 am pic.twitter.com/Mbf8GqEznu

— Shaun Griswold (@shaun505) April 30, 2024

Police left that space then marched from the third floor down to the protesters and flanked the SUB tents on both sides.

The timestamp on video recorded at the scene shows that at 3:21 a.m. police broke through another furniture blockade in front of doors leading from the third floor on the north end of the SUB. Immediately, police got into position directly across from the protesters.

Another video shot at 3:24 a.m. shows an officer not dressed in riot gear pull at a green and white tent. This is the first time police engage physically with the group.

First tent destroyed and police are now completely in the SUB encampment pic.twitter.com/ptMjNtlPXZ

— Shaun Griswold (@shaun505) April 30, 2024

Officers ripped several tents, grabbed at least three people who were inside, and detained them in a corner while others pushed people away toward a single door exit on the east side.

Once outside, some police continued to march forward, but they all eventually retreated back indoors. Protesters continued to shout at police and chant support to the people detained.

By 4:30 a.m, New Mexico State Police cleared out the Student Union Building and left campus.

Last week, UNMPD asked State Police for help “in managing the situation” at the camp, said Jodi McGinnis Porter, spokesperson for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who oversees the State Police. Campus police did so again on Monday night, according to a State Police post on social media.

The protesters who remained returned to the outdoor encampment and said they are ready for another day until the university meets their demands.

New Mexico State Police prepare to confront protesters set up with tents inside the University of New Mexico Student Union Building on April 30, 2024. (Photo by Shaun Griswold / Source NM)

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