Pro-Palestinian group clears UW encampment after reaching agreement

May 20, 2024, 3:57 PM | Updated: 6:24 pm

Photo: A pro-Palestinian group that took over the University of Washington Quad has started to disb...

A pro-Palestinian group that took over the University of Washington Quad has started to disband after weeks of protest. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

A pro-Palestinian group that took over a portion of the University of Washington (UW) campus with an encampment, is almost completely gone.

On Friday, it was announced The United Front for Palestinian Liberation, leaders of the encampment known as the Popular University for Gaza liberated zone, reached an agreement with the university to end the encampment that had been set up for weeks at the Liberal Arts Quadrangle, more commonly known as the Quad.

The protesters had until 3 p.m. to clear out.

Past coverage: Group agrees to disband UW encampment after reaching deal with administration

It was quite a different scene on the UW campus post 3 p.m. deadline. The Quad, which was once filled with tents, now sits all but empty. The only sign the encampment ever existed is the patches of dead grass where tents once stood.

Photo: A pro-Palestinian UW encampment has cleared out, leaving behind patches on the grass where tents once were.

A pro-Palestinian UW encampment has cleared out, leaving behind patches on the grass where tents once were. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

Students, faculty and staff walked a gauntlet through the encampment every day. Not sure what to expect. Some students told KIRO Newsradio the encampment created an uncomfortable atmosphere on campus.

“Seems like there was a lot of violence and people not liking other people because of it and I think that being gone is good, especially for us college kids,” UW student Blake Gettmann said.

Only about three campers remained, post-deadline. They plan to leave Tuesday but said they will leave immediately if asked to do so.

Sofia Schwarzwalder, the news editor of UW’s student-run media outlet The Daily, posted on X that as of 3:20 p.m. Monday, the encampment was “almost completely cleared out.” She noted in a story published Monday that the number of tents “steadily declined throughout the weekend, dropping from approximately 160 early Friday evening to just under 100 Sunday afternoon.”

Despite the encampment ending, UW maintenance workers told KIRO Newsradio it will cost tens of thousands of dollars just to replace the turf due to the bleach squares the tents left behind. The protesters also spray painted graffiti on old buildings that workers said have sandstone walls and can’t be power washed too hard.

The group has moved all the debris off to the side of the lawn. It was unclear who is going to handle the trash pickup. But it appears someone in the protest group has rented a U-Haul that was shuttling the unwanted debris away, KIRO Newsradio reported on X.

Pro-Palestinian group compromises with UW

United Front leaders said last week the administration had agreed to concessions for the protesters.

Among the concessions, the university will waive tuition for at least 20 displaced Palestinian students from Gaza. It also commits to fundraising to cover additional costs for these students.

Another is that UW will “establish a faculty committee to recommend and solicit changes to study abroad programs, that exclude participation from students from specific countries or communities, including Palestinian or other Arab students.”

The university also stated it will be “transparent about its investment holdings and fund managers.”

The group also wanted UW to cut all ties to Boeing and Israel, both the university has not publicly agreed to do.

Protesters from the United Front have said they’re “not satisfied” with the concessions. However, they also stated this was the right time to disband the encampment.

The encampment started last month with a handful of students and quickly grew to nearly 200 people. What was a peaceful camp started to shift to a more aggressive tone as people were seen carrying bear spray and blocking press. That tone also included the graffiti spray-painted on the university buildings last week.

More here: Protesters at UW encampment harass, shine laser in eye of photojournalist

While that group has cleared out of the Quad, a protester told KIRO Newsradio there could be future demonstrations.

“Especially if the school doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. We are always going to be looking at their processes and analyzing them and making sure they are just, equitable and doing right by Palestine but for now we are really happy with the gains that we got,” Jay Preusker, who said he’s not affiliated with a specific organization, said to KIRO Newsradio.

Contributing: Sam Campbell, Charlie Harger and James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio; Steve Coogan, MyNorthwest

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X here and email her here.

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