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16 arrested after pro-Palestine protesters occupy the SUB

UNM solidarity encampment, week two

On Tuesday, April 30 at around 3:30 a.m., 16 pro-Palestine protesters – five of them University of New Mexico students – were arrested by UNM Police Department officers at the Student Union Building after they occupied the space. New Mexico State Police, dressed in riot gear, participated in the response.

The protesters filled the second floor of the SUB with tents, food and supplies, writing pro-Palestine messages on the walls with chalk and marker. As of April 30, at least 34,535 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Aljazeera.

Two protesters, including UNM alumni Sofia Jenkins-Nieto, were pepper-sprayed by UNMPD officers.

“I was just trying to get a good video of (the officers) and then I was outside as they were pushing people out, so I saw a lot of people get pushed to the ground and get tackled – get stepped on,” Jenkins-Nieto said. “I was about to get on the concrete to step down .... I think they were trying to spray everyone and I just got hit on the corner of my face.”

UNMPD and NMSP officers tackled protesters and threw them down to arrest them. One UNMPD officer pointed his taser at a legal observer.

The previous day, Monday, April 29 at 6 p.m., about 300 protesters gathered at the encampment at the Duck Pond to rally and march in solidarity with Palestine. About an hour later, protesters marched to the SUB.

During a speech, protester and former student Jonathan Juarez announced the occupation of the SUB.

“We are here to stay. We are calling on President Stokes and the Board of Regents to immediately begin the process of divestment,” Juarez said.

UNM has received grants from the U.S.-Israel Binational Foundations, according to The Jewish Virtual Library. Protesters chanted “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” repeatedly throughout the night.

At 8:30 p.m., a campus-wide LoboAlert was sent out, stating protesters occupied the SUB and that the building was closed. Protesters remained in the building.

At around 9 p.m., UNM President Garnett Stokes was outside the SUB. UNM Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Cinnamon Blair did not know why Stokes was there, she said.

“Right now, I'm thinking and considering what it means – what this next action represents for the campus. And so for me, I understand the various perspectives. I know what's being asked, but at the same time, I think there are many things to consider, including the impact of this on other members of the community, and so (I am) considering what our next steps are,” Stokes said in a statement to the Daily Lobo.

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At around 11 p.m., about 29 police cars belonging to UNMPD and NMSP were staged outside of Hokona Hall, according to Juarez.

Several protesters sealed tent entrances with zip-ties and chained the tents to the second floor railing. Protesters anticipated the police officers would perform arrests. Some filled out forms where they wrote their names and emergency contact information in case of arrest.

Abbey Myrick, a graduate student in the Department of Neurosciences, was willing to risk arrest to support the younger students involved in the protest, she said.

“It's not really about politics and it's not even really about history at this moment. Even though there's a lot of history, it's more a humanitarian crisis that's occurring right now and (UNM is) funding it,” Myrick said.

UNMPD and NMSP arrived at the SUB at 3 a.m., telling protesters they had 30 minutes to leave before being charged with criminal trespassing. Protesters barricaded doors leading outside with couches, tables and chairs.

Shortly before 3:30 a.m., about 20 NMSP officers dressed in riot gear entered the north end of the SUB, standing in a line. They gradually approached the protesters at the south end, who used plastic storage container lids as shields and linked arms, chanting.

The officers dismantled tents with protesters inside, including Siihasin Hope, a protester and community organizer. Officers arrested Hope and other individuals who were inside the tents.

“We see you, we love you, we will get justice for you,” protesters chanted as Hope was escorted to a NMSP vehicle.

At about 4 a.m., officers began forcibly removing anyone who remained in the SUB and made more arrests.

“I definitely did see several students get brutalized by police,” Juarez said. “I also have a friend that is pregnant right now who was also injured by the police.”

On April 30 at 2 p.m., UNM Leadership released a University-wide statement regarding the SUB occupation, describing it as “not acceptable.” The SUB remained closed until Wednesday, May 1 at 7 a.m.

As of April 30 at 2 p.m., about half of the arrested protesters were released, according to the UNM Palestine Solidarity Camp Instagram.

“President Stokes and this administration would rather see students be brutalized and forcibly removed than have a written commitment to divest within 48 hours – rather than meeting really basic and feasible demands of students,” Juarez said.

Update 05/02/2024

By Thursday, May 2, all 16 of the protesters arrested during the April 30 SUB occupation were released from the Metropolitan Detention Center. They were charged with criminal trespass and wrongful use of public property, according to court records.

Hope was the only protester charged with criminal trespass involving damage, per New Mexico Statute 30-14-1 (D), according to court records.

Four protesters who were arrested, including Hope and Sophia Ellis-Young, said they sustained injuries from their arrests.

“I was laying there because I had put my hands behind my back – none of us were resisting arrest – and I looked back at (an officer) and he just looked at me. And then he stepped as hard as he could on this object, and it snapped up in my face,” Hope said.

On Tuesday, April 30, protesters at the Duck Pond held a vigil in solidarity with Palestine and those who were arrested at the SUB.

Hope and Ellis-Young were put in solitary confinement cells at the detention center without water, food or access to phone calls, they said at the vigil.

“Choosing to be arrested is no joke. We experienced wounds; one comrade got his lip busted, I got my shirt ripped. It was an incredibly traumatizing experience,” Ellis-Young said.

On Wednesday, May 1, the United Academics of UNM – a faculty union – circulated a signable statement in solidarity with students participating in the SUB and Duck Pond encampments. The statement received 225 signatures from faculty and staff by May 2, Jennifer Tucker, an associate professor at the School of Architecture & Planning, said in a press release.

“We urge President Stokes and Provost Holloway to de-escalate their response towards students exercising their first amendment rights,” the statement reads.

Representatives at the SUB did not immediately respond to a request for comment concerning the April 30 occupation’s impact on the building. 

Update 05/05/2024

On Saturday, May 4, at the University of New Mexico Duck Pond solidarity encampment, students and community members joined the UNM Faculty & Staff Divestment Working Group for a teach-in and art build on Palestine and divestment.

The working group consists of UNM faculty and staff who advocate for the advancement of student protesters and University divestment from Israel, according to Jennifer Tucker, an associate professor at the School of Architecture & Planning.

“It's really about exploring the links between activism and art and how art can be a force for social change,” Tucker said.

Jennifer Jordan, the UNM Open Educational Resources librarian, attended the teach-in to support her students, she said.

“I saw at least one of (my students) on the footage (from the Student Union Building), and I was scared for him,” Jordan said.

Later that day, local therapists like Niyera Hewlett offered drop-in sessions at the mental health first aid tent.

“We’re here in support because we’ve noticed a lot of the violence and brutality that people have experienced, and when you’re in survival mode you can’t really feel those feelings. We wanted to offer a space for folks to try and process some of it,” Hewlett said.

As of Sunday, May 5, UNM has no plans to alter the commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 11 in response to the protests, UNM Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Cinnamon Blair said.

On Friday, May 3, the encampment released a statement addressing the police response to the April 29-30 occupation of the Student Union Building and in response to UNM Leadership’s statement earlier in the week.

“Until UNM discloses information on investments, we cannot know the full extent of our institution's contribution to the genocide of Palestinians,” the encampment’s statement reads.

The UNM Department of Native American Studies also released a statement on May 3 in solidarity with those involved with the encampment, calling for UNM leadership and administration to engage in dialogue with student and faculty protesters.

“Students are the ones who are saying no business as usual until we reevaluate our relationship with Israel,” Tucker said. “So it’s important for faculty and for the community and for staff to support those who are taking risks in order to make change on this really urgent issue.”

Paloma Chapa is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @paloma_chapa88

Ella Daniel is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @ella_daniel7

Lelia Chapa contributed reporting to this article.

Paloma Chapa

Paloma Chapa is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @paloma_chapa88

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