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Seven arrested as police dismantle UNM Palestine solidarity encampment

On the morning of Wednesday, May 15, University of New Mexico police arrested seven people – two of them students – while dismantling the UNM Palestine solidarity encampment at the Duck Pond. New Mexico State Police dressed in riot gear participated.

The arrests followed a University-wide email from President Garnett Stokes on Tuesday, May 14, demanding the encampment be taken down by 5 p.m. that day. At 5 a.m. on May 15, UNM staff delivered notices signed by Stokes to protesters who remained at the site, ordering them to vacate the premises within the hour.

At around 6 a.m. on May 15, police and UNM Facilities Management arrived at the Duck Pond and disassembled the encampment, loading wooden pallets, foldable chairs and other items into a dump truck. Protesters, including Diego Guerrerortiz, a UNM School of Law alumni, watched from behind crime scene tape. By 8:30 a.m., the encampment was gone.

“(UNM) thinks that the encampment – the material encampment – is a representation of this movement, and that's just not true. The movement is the people. The encampment was something to make (UNM) uncomfortable because they prioritize property too much,” Guerrerortiz said.

The seven people who were arrested were charged with criminal trespass and wrongful use of public property, according to court documents and Cinnamon Blair, UNM Chief Marketing and Communications Officer. One person was charged with concealing their identity.

One protester was injured and taken to UNM Hospital for treatment, according to the UNM Palestine Solidarity Camp Instagram.

The arrests also followed a May 14 meeting between Stokes and members of the UNM Divestment Coalition. The coalition is made up of UNM College Democrats, Law Students Against Imperialism and 37 other student organizations and non-UNM advocacy groups who advocate for UNM’s disclosure of and divestment from financial ties to Israel.

In the same email as the order to dismantle the encampment, Stokes announced the University’s commitment to publicly disclosing the results of research into their investment portfolio by August 2024.

Jennifer Tucker, an associate professor at the School of Architecture & Planning, attended the meeting.

“The encampment is one of the longest running encampments in the U.S. It's part of a national movement of students who are demanding that their universities and the institutions that they belong to divest from these atrocities. So (the commitment to disclose investments is) a result of that pressure,” Tucker said.

At the meeting, Andre Montoya-Barthelemy, faculty at UNM School of Medicine, suggested Stokes should negotiate the disbanding of the encampment with protesters, he said.

“My concern, of course, is that the president is not actually interested in negotiating with students. Her actions seem to demonstrate this. Her goals seem to have been – in retrospect, looking at that meeting – to provide us a deliberately symbolic and non-material concession, and, at the same time, present a threat of physical expulsion,” Montoya-Barthelemy said.

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At 5 p.m. on May 14, about 100 UNM students, faculty, staff and community members gathered at the Duck Pond. Protesters provided free meals and prepared to hold space through the evening. By midnight, about 30 people planned to spend the night.

At about 5:50 a.m., a UNMPD officer made an announcement from a speaker from his vehicle at the roundabout by Dane Smith Hall.

“You were given one hour to remove your belongings and leave the area. Refusal to comply by 6:02 a.m. is a criminal act. If you do not comply with this order, you will be arrested and force may be used against you,” the officer said.

UNMPD officers cordoned off sections of the Duck Pond with crime scene tape. Some protesters who remained in the area were arrested.

Protesters chanted “Remember the Nakba,” referring to Nakba Day – which takes place annually on May 15 in recognition of the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine by Israeli militias, according to Al Jazeera.

As police expanded the perimeter with the tape, protesters linked arms and remained in a line in the Scholes Hall parking lot, chanting “stay together, stay tight” and “free, free Palestine.” UNMPD officers eventually taped as far as the trees on the median of University Blvd. NMSP blocked the street with two of their vehicles.

The arrested protesters were booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center. As of 8 p.m. on May 15, five of them were released, according to the MDC Inmate Release List.

“I think (UNM) thinks that this is the end to a movement, and we see this as the beginning,” Guerrerortiz said.

Update 05/16/2024

On May 15, while removing zip-ties, police cut the wrists of the protester who was previously reported as injured, according to recent UNM alumni and former UNM College Democrats President Rakin Faruk. The protester received stitches at UNMH, Faruk said.

Bryant Furlow, an independent investigative journalist, was one of the seven arrested by UNMPD. Before his arrest, he asked police where the news media could stand, whether there was a public information officer on scene and who was in charge, according to a May 16 statement Furlow released through New Mexico In Depth.

“‘As I was being arrested, I said I was a member of the press repeatedly and loudly,’” Furlow said in the statement.

Shortly after Furlow’s statement, the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government released a statement in solidarity.

“Arresting journalists for reporting the news is blatantly unconstitutional. The UNM Police Department should drop the charges immediately,” the statement reads.

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

Leila Chapa is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @lchapa06

Lily Alexander 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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