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Demonstrators set up an encampment at WMU in support of ceasefire in Gaza

tents on a grassy area with a sign that says ceasefire
Jessi Phillips
The encampment on the afternoon of Monday, April 29, 2024. The group says it has no plans to leave until the university pledges to release financial documents regarding any investments it has in Israel.

The group wants WMU to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Activists pushing for a ceasefire in Gaza set up an encampment at Western Michigan University over the weekend.

Members put up tents Saturday morning, and some protestors stayed overnight. Organizers said the university later told them they could stay, but had to remove the tents. They kept a few canopies to protect supplies. Organizer Roland Bissonnette said the group wants Western to do more to support Palestinian students and faculty, and to support a ceasefire.

“Of course people say, ‘What is that going to do, what is this one university going to do?’”, he said. “But it sends a message, and it shows support for the Palestinian people, and that’s what this is about.”

He pushed back against depictions of nationwide university protests as anti-Semitic.

“Peace is not an anti-Semitic notion,” he said. “We’re here for peace. We’re not here for anything else. We’re here for ceasefire. Ceasefire is not anti-Semitic.”

The demonstrators say they also want WMU to divest from companies that support Israel.

Western senior Marissa Wagner is a co-chair of the group Kalamazoo Non-Violent Opponents of War (KNOW). She said members will remain at the site until WMU agrees to reveal financial documents related to any investments it has in Israel.

“The longer the administration stays silent, the longer students are gonna sit here and the more support they’re gonna get,” she said. “So the sooner the administration just talks to us, and comes to a compromise with us, the sooner we can be out of here.”

WMU did not respond to a request for comment by deadline on whether it has investments in Israel. In a statement, the university said it supports students’ right to protest, but they cannot put up structures.