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Thursday, June 20, 2024
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Students protest outside the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Engineering Hall.

Pro-Palestinian protests continue against UWPD and UW-Madison engineering college

Pro-Palestinian activist groups hosted a demonstration Monday to protest weapons manufacturers at an engineering career fair and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department’s alleged violence against a protester on Feb. 13.

Protesters from Mecha De UW-Madison, Madison for Palestine, Students for Justice in Palestine and Anticolonial Scientists spoke out against the inclusion of weapons manufacturing companies with ties to Israel at the engineering career fair last week, including BAE Systems, CAT and General Dynamics. 

Chants and signs also criticized UW-Madison administration and campus police for an incident where an officer shoved a protester outside the career fair.

Many of the organizations demanded at the protest and through social media posts that UW-Madison ban on-campus recruitment by weapon manufacturing companies. Protesters also demanded UWPD fire officers involved in the incident and that multiple administrative figures resign, including Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin and Dean of Students Christina Olstad. 

Demands have not yet formally been delivered to administration, according to a student protester who asked to remain anonymous. 

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Students protest to for UW-Madison to cut ties with arms manufacturers supporting Israel and to Free Palestine Feb. 19, 2023.

“They can hear us,” the student said. “We’re going to remain here until they meet our demands.” 

Kelly Tyrrell, UW-Madison director of media relations and strategic communications, said administration is aware of the demands.

“The university cannot exclude or otherwise prohibit participation of employers that meet the criteria for career fair participation,” Tyrrell said.

Clara Molina Blanco, a graduate student and teaching assistant, told the Cardinal she believes there is a trend of repression by Mnookin toward student protests.

“We’ve really only been seeing stronger enforcement of protest guidelines after we started protesting for Palestine,” Blanco said.

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University Career Services posted protest guidelines outside the career fair, indicating protests could not disturb the event. A member of UW-Madison’s Protest Support Team contacted a protest organizer to clarify protest guidelines before the Feb. 19 demonstration.

Blanco said she will continue to participate in campus protests despite protest guidelines she said limit protesters' speech. 

“For those of us who were already coming to the protest, this is not going to deter us, if anything, it’s created the opposite effect, which is you're not going to silence us,” Blanco said.

Also present at the protest was a UW-Madison alum Frank Emspak who recalled his days as a student protesting Dow Chemical during the Vietnam War in 1967. 

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UW-Madison alum Frank Emspak who speaks to students about his experience protesting Dow Chemical during the Vietnam War in 1967. 

“During that time there was a deep, moral revulsion about, what is the role of the university? What should we be doing as an educational and intellectual institution?” Emspak said. “Now, with this group, it’s beginning to raise similar issues about the role of the university and its moral compass.”

The university is currently reviewing the Feb. 13 incident.

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