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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Monday, June 24, 2024
The Palestinian flag waves above the Pro-Palestinian encampment at Library Mall on May 4, 2024 in Madison, Wis.

A Daily Cardinal perspective: A look back at the UW-Madison pro-Palestine encampment

The Daily Cardinal spent over 1,000 combined hours at the UW-Madison pro-Palestine encampment. Here are our takeaways.

When the Students for Justice in Palestine and Young Democratic Socialists of America organized a pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from April 29 to May 10, journalists and photographers from The Daily Cardinal assembled at Library Mall. 

For the next 12 days, over 1,000 combined hours were spent by Cardinal reporters, photographers and editors at the encampment.

In real time from their own campus, they covered a protest police raid, captured photos of police officers at the Fluno Center and attended meetings to track the university’s deal with the protesters.

Here are eleven takeaways.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Tell me about your experience covering the protest.

Mary Bosch, Photo Editor: I was anxious the police would come. I was anxious something would happen while I was away and that photo coverage would not continue without me. I was constantly checking my phone, making sure nothing major was happening. 

I knew it was better to sleep because there were plenty of people there, but I couldn't sleep for hours because I felt I should leave my bed and go and cover the protest. Often I would wake up in the early hours of the morning out of anxiety, and I couldn't go back to sleep, other mornings I woke up very early because I was scared something might happen.

Noe Goldhaber, College News Editor: It was so meaningful for me to see very talented reporters get recognized more widely for their work during the encampment. Throughout the process, it was never lost on me how high stakes our reporting was, but I think overall I am proud of how our reporting team made decisions together and supported each other. I think how we handled decisions internally and recognized our different approaches ultimately made our coverage much better.

Ava Menkes, Managing Editor: The experience was rewarding, captivating and demanding. I wanted our coverage to capture the protests' impact in the most ethical way possible and I think we achieved that. I have never spent that many hours in a work cycle like that before. It was exhausting but truly some of the most rewarding work I've helped contribute to the paper.

If you were present for the police raid on May 1, please describe what you saw.

Bryna Goeking, Arts Editor: I remember there was one moment where I was unintentionally blocking some cops walking while standing, and they yelled at me which was pretty scary. I recognized some people against the police and it was extremely disheartening to see them attacked in such a way. I remember before the police attacked, being nervous about what would happen. Meanwhile, the cops were walking around, whispering to each other, laughing, and it seemed like they didn't view the encampment as a real threat. 

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Gabi Hartlaub, former Arts Editor: I saw people being sucked into circles of police officers then suddenly pushed to the ground forcefully and sometimes arrested. I saw a student be handcuffed on the ground then physically carried across the street to Memorial Union by police officers. Students who had been arrested moments before showed back up at the protest and continued to protect the tents. I saw students with arms clasped protecting the final tent standing, as police moved in closer and closer, bloody noses, bloody knuckles, clothes ripped and trash everywhere.

Menkes: I saw protesters linking arms, singing and chanting slogans like "disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest." I recall the police surrounding the protesters before pushing their way in. One arrest stands out in my memory: three officers pinned a protester down, their hands on his neck, while he lay on the sidewalk with his head on the concrete.  Eventually, they sat him up, his legs sprawled over a purple chalk drawing that read "Disclose." He didn't resist and maybe only muttered something. 

How did it make you feel in the moment? Do you think it will have a lasting effect on you?

Bosch: I think it will. I'll never forget seeing my coworker cry. I felt like I couldn't do anything for her in that moment. I couldn't fix this. I tried to provide her comfort, do what I could, but I couldn't fix this. I just kept thinking this is so f–ked. This is f–ked. What the f–k is happening? I'm getting worked up even writing about it now.

Goeking: I actually had a nightmare a few days after about police and guns. Seeing their huge guns up close was distressing. Knowing people in the encampment, it was also difficult to watch them get attacked and not be able to do anything.

Hartlaub: I think I will be unpacking this in therapy one day, it's been almost two weeks and I still think about it almost every day. In the moment I was afraid, afraid the police would use guns, afraid that more of my classmates would be hurt and the fear just hasn't left me yet.

Anna Kleiber, State News Editor: As a student, it was crazy to see the university send in police to physically break up a peaceful protest. And while I know that camping on university property is illegal, it was disheartening that our university would resort to these measures so quickly.

As hard as it was to be there in the fray being pushed around and getting scraped up by riot shields, I am grateful I was able to report on this campus protest and provide accurate coverage to the UW-Madison community.

Were there moments that challenged you, how did you adapt?

Tyler Katzenberger, former Managing Editor: Reporting on the Hamas spokesperson banner and antisemitic chalking at the Capitol really tested me as a reporter and a person. Senior staff writer Rachel Hale, News Manager Jasper Bernstein and I spent days on our final story to make sure everything was correct, given the situation was so volatile. There were also so many overlapping protest groups involved, too, and it took a lot of careful work to separate them from each other while also making sure the right people got a chance to comment on whatever we reported.

Menkes: I wanted to make sure all the reporters and even students who read the Cardinal, felt comfortable with coverage. This was difficult because we all have different lived experiences and will have different perspectives with framing such a difficult topic.

In the end, this is campus coverage not politics. We intimately know our audience because we are our audience. This meant focusing on the trust, virtue and empathy behind what people were doing first, and recognizing that they are also bringing their diverse background and life experiences to our writing the way we are. 

What do you think you learned while covering the protest?

Katzenberger: Everything is more complicated than you think. Don't trust people who claim to see a clear-cut answer to one of the world's thorniest geopolitical conflicts.

Francesca Pica, Editor-in-Chief: I learned how important having a good, reliable team is during this coverage. We had so many people who were willing to take time out of their finals week to stay at Library Mall all day. Our coverage was as good as it was because people were incredibly dedicated. It made me feel extremely proud of being at the Cardinal to see that so many of our staff cared so much for the work that they did.

How will this protest impact the campus community in the future?

Annika Bereny, former Special Pages Editor: On one hand, it's created a huge rift of trust between students who were involved as well as unions like the TAA and faculty union and university administration. A lot of people are very rightfully mad that admin could send in so many cops to brutalize protesters for peacefully protesting, and I think that that will not be easy to repair at all. On the other hand, for those people who walked by the encampment every day and noticed it but never really cared, never really saw the point of it, I don't think their opinions are at all changed towards admin. 

Katzenberger: Campus administrators lost a lot of trust among student groups, including what little trust they managed to build this year with many minority student groups. There are also many others (including those who hold the university's state funding purse strings) who are mad at what they see as a soft response to an illegal encampment.

How did covering the protest change your daily schedule? How did the workload affect you?

Bosch: It was the only thing I did. I didn't hang out with my friends, I didn't study for finals and I didn't eat on a normal schedule. It felt like hanging out with a group of people was too much. I couldn't be social for long, I was just so exhausted. Basically, I was hanging by a thread trying to get all of my school and coverage done. And I still wish I had been there more. This also came after the end of the semester when I was extremely burned out.

Nicholas Sinn, photographer: When I was signed up and on-call, I lost a lot of time that I would spend taking care of myself, and planning out my week. It condensed my workload a lot and made me have to finish everything super quickly, efficiently and without mistakes. That was difficult, it caused stress, anxiety and worry on whether or not it was my best work.

Drake White-Bergey, former Editor-in-Chief: I had to adjust my daily schedule to be within a short distance of the encampment at nearly all times, especially early on when we didn't know what was going to happen or when it would happen (if anything happened). I even resorted to sleeping in the Cardinal office for a few days to make sure I could get to the encampment quickly if anything happened.

Were there any particular speeches, signs or chants that stood out?

Katzenberger: There was a sign on one of the tents that read: "This tent has stood since Monday, no one likes a liar, Mnookin." That sign was memorable to me because our reporting team was responsible for correcting that bit of misinformation from Mnookin, and it reminded me that people were reading our coverage.

Finnegan Ricco, photographer: I remember on the morning of May 1 the protesters started chanting "the whole world is watching," and that kind of stuck with me.

Could you describe the atmosphere among the protesters or counter-protesters?

Pica: The protesters had a policy not to engage with counter-protesters, and counter-protesters for the most part did separate counter-protests on the Mall or held up signs. I think this was for the best, as it prevented confrontations that could very easily have escalated. Protesters came and went throughout, and they just sat on the lawn between scheduled events.

Ricco: Peaceful. I remember talking to some of the protesters and they explained how despite their differences, the two sides regularly came together in everyday activities. Some protesters even shared how they convinced some counter-protesters to eat at the People's Kitchen with them.

How did other students react to the protest?

Kleiber: Until the protest gained more attention, I think a lot of students didn't really know it was happening. Especially in the first few days, it was interesting to see other students and people walking through or by Library Mall stop and look at the encampment. I will say, after the police raid on May 1, it seemed like more students tuned into what was happening on Library Mall.

White-Bergey: Many students (including my roommates) didn't even know there was an encampment until I told them. Otherwise I heard a lot of discussion about it across campus — both for and against.

Did you use social media to spread any of the news, if so did you find it effective?

Katzenberger: More than 5 million people viewed one of my posts, and I saw that tweet plastered on friends' Instagram stories when I finally got home that night. So yeah, it was effective in that sense. I will acknowledge social media isn't the best platform for fully contextualizing everything you post. However, if someone isn't recording what's happening, how would we ever be able to go back and piece the full story together? 

Menkes: I think most of us did. Twitter was great to quickly spread news of what happened and keep people informed within seconds to minutes. I would like to make clear to anyone in the future paying attention to this as an archive: The Daily Cardinal was the best newspaper that covered this event nationally.

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