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University of Arizona encampment calls for Gaza ceasefire, divestment from companies tied to Israel

Protesters broke down their encampment and dispersed from the University of Arizona mall around 10:30 p.m. Monday, in compliance with a police order and signage warning arrests could begin after that time. An organizer told a crowd of about 150 protesters that remained on campus Monday night that the group had decided to disperse after taking a vote. 

Students had set up the encampment on campus calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment from companies tied to Israel — the latest in a string of similar university encampments across the country. 

Several dozen people had gathered on campus just before 10 a.m. Monday with signs, pop-ups and megaphones. They had also brought tents to stay overnight. 

Asani Fowler, an organizer with the student group Coalition of Black Students and Allies, said demonstrators wanted to draw attention to the university’s ties to tech and aerospace companies like the arms manufacturer Raytheon. 

"So, I'm Black, and I have ... a number of experiences with racism," he said. "I strongly believe that if any of us are oppressed all of us are oppressed. And the Black struggle in the U.S. compares a lot to the struggle in Palestine, so I empathize with them heavily."

Fowler said aside from the sprinklers being turned on during their protest, he and other students had not had any major encounters with law enforcement or arrests. They had also taken down tents they'd set up earlier in order to comply with a no-camping law on campus, but Fowler said he and others were prepared to stay. University police department personnel stood by but did not intervene, and a handful of counter-protesters held up Israeli flags to the side of the encampment. 

Several yards away, several tech companies, including Raytheon, presented to students Monday at an annual event put on by the School of Engineering. Jenna Wheat, a senior at UA and an organizer with the group Students Against Apartheid, which organized the protest, said the timing of their encampment was partially to draw attention to that event. 

"I love my university and I love my community, and that's why I'm going to keep on fighting," she said. "Because we need to have a divestment from companies like Raytheon and Caterpillar and Intel that are creating these things."

This is the second such encampment to take place on a campus on Arizona. More than 60 people were arrested at ASU's encampment at the end of last week. 

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.