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UNC Charlotte disbands Gaza protest encampment, forbids Tuesday march

Empty green outside Cato Hall
Kenneth Lee, Jr.
The lawn outside UNC Charlotte's Cato Hall after police cleared a pro-Palestinian protest encampment on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

UNC Charlotte Police, with support from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, on Tuesday dispersed on-campus protesters rallying in support of Palestinians in Gaza amidst the Israeli war on Hamas.

Police removed an encampment on the lawn outside Fretwell and Cato Hall. A letter Tuesday morning from Chancellor Sharon Gaber said the situation was resolved peacefully, with one person detained.

Gaber said that the tent encampment, which included barriers and signs, violated university policies requiring permission for displays and other events.

"UNC Charlotte promises a robust intellectual environment that values social and cultural diversity and free expression. However, expression must be conducted with the reasonable time, place and manner restrictions established in law and policy," Gaber said in a statement. "These actions are not free speech. They disrupt campus operations and pose a threat to campus safety."

The school said it was restricting entry to all buildings on campus to people with UNC Charlotte IDs, starting at 2:15 pm on Tuesday and continuing through the rest of the day.

"This precautionary measure is in place to ensure exams can continue uninterrupted should protests occur later today," administrators said, in a statement. Protests would be allowed at the 49th Acre, where tailgating usually happens.

Student organizers had planned to hold a march Tuesday at 5 p.m. in front of the Cato building, but the school said that would not be permitted.

UNC Charlotte, in a letter to the organizers, said "due to disruptions to final exams and safety concerns," the school would forbid the march and student participants could be subject to expulsion and arrest for trespassing, while staff participants could face termination.

Universities across the U.S. have struggled to deal with pro-Palestinian encampments and marches in recent weeks, with violent confrontations at campuses such as Columbia University in New York City and UCLA in California.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, police, protesters and university administrators clashed last week around a flagpole, where they jockeyed to take down — and then put up again — an American flag.

Protesters have generally demanded their schools divest from all companies that do business with Israel and cut academic ties with Israeli institutions. Some Jewish students on campuses have said they're facing antisemitic slogans, chants and intimidation.

UNC Charlotte's spring commencement exercises start later this week, with ceremonies on campus Friday and Saturday.

WFAE's Kenneth Lee Jr. and Ely Portillo contributed to this report.

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Woody is a Charlotte native who came to WFAE from the world of NASCAR where he was host of NASCAR Today for MRN Radio as well as a pit reporter, turn announcer and host of the NASCAR Live pre race show for Cup Series races. Before that, he was a news anchor at WBT radio in Charlotte, a traffic reporter, editor of The Charlotte Observer’s University City Magazine, News/Sports Director at WEGO-AM in Concord and a Swiss Army knife in local cable television. His first job after graduating from Appalachian State University was news reporter at The Daily Independent in Kannapolis. Along the way he’s covered everything from murder trials and a national political convention to high school sports and minor league baseball.