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Friday, May 24, 2024
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Madison Common Council votes against resolution to support encampments

Students, protestors and community members gathered at the Common Council meeting to voice their support and concerns about the resolution.

The Madison Common Council voted against a resolution to reaffirm support for a permanent Israeli ceasefire in Gaza and to support student protesters early Wednesday morning.

The pro-Palestine encampment began on April 29 and continued through Wednesday as student and faculty protesters slept overnight in tents on Library Mall. On Tuesday, the council was met with dozens of University of Wisconsin-Madison students, faculty and community members voicing both their support and concerns surrounding the resolution.

The motion failed after eight members voted in favor of the resolution, and eight voted against. Voting to adopt this resolution under suspension would require 14 votes from council members.

During the meeting, pro-Palestine witnesses of the encampment and protests encouraged alders to support protesters by voting in favor of the resolution.

Madison resident Sarah Bocher said the protest “is peaceful, multigenerational and multicultural.” 

Many other Madison community members said the protests have remained peaceful and respectful and that the rights of the protesters must be protected.

Pro-Palestine protesters and community members also expressed their frustration with the demand for tents to be removed from Library Mall. 

On May 1, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department (UWPD) ordered pro-Palestine protesters to remove their tents. A total of 34 protesters were arrested on May 1, and four were booked to the Dane County Jail, according to UWPD

According to protesters, there have been other instances of encampment in Madison that have not been met with police presence. 

“On Feb. 4, multiple sports fans had camped overnight at the Kohl Center. No police were called, and there was no concern,” said Aedan Gardill, UW-Madison alum. “On Record Store Day on April 20, people camped outside of a record store in tents on Monroe Street, and no one was concerned.”

UW-Madison graduate student Michael Rosenthal told council members that only violent act within this protest occurred when “the [UW-Madison] chancellor called the police on the peaceful protesters.”

Rosenthal said “the students and staff members did not respond with more violence” when UWPD responded “violently” to the encampment. 

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UW-Madison student Max Prestigiacomo called into the meeting from a tent within the encampment. 

“Many people here are live streaming this meeting,” Prestigiacomo said. “This vote should be easy. It should be very, very, very easy to make this vote.”

Other students and community members said they opposed the resolution.

Emily D., a UW-Madison alum, said the resolution was “passive-aggressive” toward Jewish students and said the protests are “verbally violent.”

Madison community member Fred Gants also opposed to the resolution because it “congratulates and endorses law-breaking.”

“We should not be supporting the breaking of the law,” Gants said. “In many ways, this is simply an ‘anti-Israel’ protest.”

Madison resident Jeremy D. Tunis said “the current language [of the resolution] does not properly align with the council's mission.”  

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, who has worked and lived in Madison for over 19 years, asked the council to “acknowledge the impact that this has had on the Israeli population.”

“All citizens are hurting,” Biatch said. 

Student protesters have yet to comment about the decision to reject the resolution.

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