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The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

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UCUP Stages Die-In at Pret a Manger, Protests Israel Consul General’s Meeting With Alivisatos

More than two dozen students and faculty entered Pret a Manger and lay on the floor with white roses on their chests during the “die-in.”
Nathaniel Rodwell-Simon
UCUP speaker in front of “Honor the Martyrs,” UCUP’s 23,000-flag art installation.

On Friday, January 26, UChicago United for Palestine (UCUP) held a rally on the quad and a march to Pret a Manger, where students staged a “die-in” to protest the coffee shop chain’s announcement of an expansion into Israel.

The demonstration began at 12:15 p.m. outside of Eckhart Hall, where UCUP and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at UChicago met in front of “Honor the Martyrs,” UCUP’s 23,000-flag art installation.

Around 200 students, faculty, and community members attended the protest as UCUP and SJP activists led chants and gave speeches on the quad.

The first speaker was Katja Stroke-Adolphe, a Law School student who helped organize last week’s art installation.

“Even as the universities of Gaza are obliterated, UChicago maintains material and intellectual investments in Israeli genocide against Palestinians. UChicago claims neutrality, but there is no such thing as neutrality when it comes to genocide,” she said. “We call for UChicago to end its complicity, to provide transparency in investments, to divest from weapons manufacturers, and to join the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.”

Protestors in front of the art installation. (Photo/Nathaniel Rodwell-Simon)

The second speaker, a representative of the recently formed activism group Faculty for Justice in Palestine, began by praising the effort that went into “Honor the Martyrs.” She also acknowledged the 26 students and two faculty members arrested last quarter as a result of UCUP’s sit-in at Rosenwald Hall, the admissions office building.

“We are on day 111 of Israel’s unhinged assault against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and every single day we witness wanton violence more horrific than the last,” the speaker said.

“You took peaceful action to disrupt the status quo. You refused to take the enormity of the genocidal acts in Gaza. And they punished you, to bring back order and the flow of capital. But here you are again, unsilent visionaries. Thank you.”

Both speakers mentioned, to loud booing from the attendees, a recent meeting between University President Paul Alivisatos and Yinam Cohen, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest. The meeting between Alivisatos and Cohen, hosted January 24 at UChicago Hillel, aimed to “enhance the partnership between [the University of Chicago] and Israeli research institutions and to make sure that every Jewish or Israeli student feels safe on campus,” according to a tweet from Cohen’s X account.

At 12:40 p.m., the crowd was instructed to begin marching towards Hutchinson Commons. “Up, up with liberation! Down, down with occupation!” the demonstrators chanted as they marched north.

Protestors outside Hutch. (Photo/Nathaniel Rodwell-Simon)

The march ended at Hutchinson Courtyard, where activists announced their next action: a “die-in” at Pret a Manger, which announced last month that it would be opening at least 40 locations in Israel. The organizers invited anyone interested in demonstrating to follow them inside the café. Those who stepped forward were warned of possible administrative punishment and the likelihood of doxing.

More than two dozen students and faculty entered Pret a Manger and lay on the floor with white roses on their chests. Many students working or socializing in Pret left the building after the die-in began and were directed out the back entrance by the protest’s patron liaison.

Throughout the protest, several patrons entered the coffee shop, stepping over the bodies to get to the counter and reach seats in the back.

Shortly after the die-in began, Associate Director for Public Affairs Gerald McSwiggan arrived with three UCPD officers outside of Pret a Manger. At 1:05 p.m., McSwiggan and officers entered the shop from the rear entrance. Outside, student security marshals held up keffiyehs towards the windows of Pret to prevent photographs from being taken of the inside. McSwiggan and the UCPD officers remained at the scene until after the protesters dispersed.

The die-in concluded at 1:15 p.m., when students stood up and exited the café to go outside. Demonstrators sang and yelled, “We believe that we will win!”

UCUP protestors chanting in the Hutchinson courtyard. (Photo/Nathaniel Rodwell-Simon)

After the protest, Stroke-Adolphe expressed deep concern over Alivisatos’s recent meeting with Cohen while not answering protesters’ demands for a meeting. “He met with the general consul of Israel, in the midst of his genocide, who came to campus to, in his words, enhance relationships between Israeli institutions and UChicago. Paul has been denying meeting with UChicago United for Palestine publicly for months. He got students arrested rather than meeting with them,” she told The Maroon.

“He’s met repeatedly with Israeli and/or Jewish students on campus, at least four times since October 7. And by those I mean he has met with the institutional bodies of Chabad and Hillel, not Jewish groups such as UChicago Jews for a Free Palestine.” She continued, “but he has not met with Palestinian or Muslim students anywhere the same way.”

Another interviewee, a third-year undergraduate, expressed concern over UCPD’s presence at the die-in. “Every time we [UCUP] do an action, no matter how peaceful, the University escalates by sending the cops to come attempt to get us to leave or intervene in some way,” they said. “It’s a pattern that we find really worrying, just their willingness to escalate to the use of cops, which oftentimes can escalate to the use of force against students but also against the community as a whole.”

When asked for comment on the protest and Alivisatos’s meeting, McSwiggan replied with a statement to The Maroon.

“As part of our commitment to free expression, the University is deeply committed to upholding the rights of protesters and speakers to express a wide range of views. Over more than a century, through a great deal of vigorous debate, the University has developed a consensus against taking social or political stances on issues outside its core mission,” the statement read.

“The University’s longstanding position is that doing this through investments or other means would only diminish the University’s distinctive contribution—providing a home for faculty and students to espouse and challenge the widest range of social practices and beliefs. That idea received definitive treatment in the Kalven Report of 1967. As the report states, ‘The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.’ This principle continues to guide the University’s approach against taking collective positions on political or social issues outside its core mission, including calls for divestment.”

In the statement, McSwiggan also said about Alivisatos’s meeting with Cohen, “Members of the UChicago community work in many countries and in collaboration with scholars from around the world. University leaders routinely meet with international leaders from the public and private sector to discuss a range of subjects in research and education, and such meetings do not represent political endorsement.”

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About the Contributor
Katherine Weaver, Newsleditor, Deputy News Editor
Katherine Weaver is a third-year in the College pursuing a double major in English and creative writing. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Katherine's affinity for grammar and very strong opinions about comma usage led her straight to The Maroon in her first year. Outside of The Maroon, she enjoys working at UChicago student-run literary magazine Euphony, as well as working on the occasional Fire Escape Films production.
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  • S

    Sean / Jan 31, 2024 at 11:31 am

    This is some boring journalism. Where are the hard questions posed to Stroke-Adolphe? Some examples:

    “Ms. Stroke-Adolphe, the protest entered into a place of business. That impacts people’s livelihoods–why wouldn’t police be called in such situations? Are you saying that protests should be immune from laws against trespass etc.?” By the way, there are people being prosecuted for protesting peacefully inside an abortion clinic, and they face 11 years in a federal prison.

    Ms. Stroke-Adolphe, the protest speaks of liberation of Palestine, but Palestine is not free. There is no free speech. Women have few rights. What are your thoughts on Hamas’ iron grip on Gaza?”

    “Ms. Stroke-Adolphe, you call for a cease-fire, but there was a cease fire in place prior to October 7th. What is to stop Hamas from trying again?”

  • J

    Jacob Myrene / Jan 29, 2024 at 6:53 am

    Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian fanatics need to get off our campus. Seriously. I have had it with their incessant whining and theatrics. This is a place of learning, not a theater. Not the UN. Not Washington.

    SJP accomplishes nothing through stunts like this other than annoying students and giving fodder to Republican clowns who are crusading against academia. Pro-Israelis accomplish nothing by blanketing walls with “KIDNAPPED” flyers, and Alivisatos demeans himself and the University by indulging Israeli interests.

    You lot have parasitized our campus. Get out.

  • F

    free palestine / Jan 29, 2024 at 12:17 am

    The meeting with the Israeli consul shows that every ounce of “political neutrality” offered by the university is a lie to keep investing in bombs