University of Utah police arrest another student on the second day of pro-Palestine protests

The second day of protests at the University of Utah erupted when campus police arrested one of the student leaders who had played a prominent role in supporting Palestine here.

The student was arrested less than 10 minutes into Tuesday's rally, after 19 protesters were arrested Monday night in a violent incident at the U.S. Building, where officers in riot gear stormed the rally.

The roughly 300 protesters who returned to the U.S. on Tuesday — and then moved their rally to the Salt Lake County Jail — gathered as five officers pinned the student leader to the ground and cuffed his hands behind his back.

They shouted, “Let him go, let him go.”

A campus police officer responded with a snort to the crowd: “Shut up, kids.”

There was then tense shouting between officers and protesters until U.S. Police Captain Jason Hinojosa led his staff away and back to the edge of the rally. Students continued to shout “pigs” and “shame!” as they stood in front of the school’s administration building, the same place where they had gathered and set up tents the night before.

Several mobile police surveillance cameras have now been installed there.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two mobile security cameras are installed on the edge of the President's Circle on the University of Utah campus on Tuesday, April 30, 2024, following pro-Palestinian protests the day before that resulted in 19 protests had led to arrests.

The United States released a statement Monday on the student leader's arrest, saying he was targeted by officials “due to the actions of an individual.” University spokeswoman Rebecca Walsh added that the student leader was being investigated for trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, and that an additional charge of resisting arrest may be filed on Tuesday. All of this would be a misdemeanor; As a result, The Salt Lake Tribune is not naming the student leader, who has not yet been charged.

Gabriela Merida, another student who led the protests at the campus club Mecha, said the student leader went to a toilet alone. He started screaming and Merida and others turned around and saw him lying on the grass.

“What's happening? What are you doing?” the students shouted. “Why is he being arrested? On what charges?”

The student leader is now the 20th person arrested over the rallies at the U. and the fifth student. The rallies here were part of a nationwide movement on college campuses, where hundreds have been arrested or suspended for their pro-Palestinian support and camp stance. Students are calling on their schools to donate donations from Israel and weapons companies that have profited from the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The U.S. has $1.47 billion in endowment assets, but it is unclear how much of that is tied to opposing sources.

At Tuesday's rally, school staff walked around handing out a paper that outlined rules and resources for protesters, as well as consequences for breaking the law. Several of those present crumpled them. Student leaders condemned the handouts while shouting into megaphones.

“You violently suppressed our peaceful camp last night,” Merida shouted. “They will forever be remembered for the violent violation of our First Amendment rights.”

The second rally also took place after US President Taylor Randall issued a statement on the protests, saying the school would continue to “enforce the rule of law” with encampments. The students also commented on this answer.

One protester held a sign that read: “Taylor Randall [would] Rather than distancing yourself from the genocide, arrest his students.”

The students have demanded a meeting with Randall and have yet to have one. After Tuesday's rally on campus, the president released another statement.

“I ask the community for patience as we navigate a complex situation and balance free expression with lawful behavior,” he said. “We are now investing time and resources to support free expression and prevent further escalation.”

Shortly after it began, the group left the university campus to gather at the Salt Lake County Jail, where the arrested student leader had been held for processing.

“We want to free our comrade,” a woman shouted.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A group of demonstrators leave a pro-Palestinian protest outside the Salt Lake County Metro Jail in South Salt Lake on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A protester holds a flag during a pro-Palestine protest at the Salt Lake County Metro Jail in South Salt Lake on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

They gathered for hours, singing and banging on kitchen pots and pans. They said they wanted the student leader to be able to hear them from inside. They called him “a political prisoner.”

For hours they vowed not to leave until he was released from custody. Some stayed there overnight, lying on the grass next to “No Trespassing” signs.

The student leader was arrested on campus shortly after 6 p.m. on Tuesday. He was released from jail just before 6 a.m. Wednesday after about 12 hours of detention and processing.

“It is absolutely unacceptable for police to keep people in custody for this long,” Mecha wrote in an Instagram story.

That processing time is fairly normal for most detainees brought into the Salt Lake County facility, according to jail staff who attended the rally, who said it can take between eight and 12 hours.

The students initially crowded onto the ramp of the prison, where those released go out. Prison staff said they were disrupting operations there and asked them to move to the sidewalk, which they did.

Overall, the scene there was quieter than in the USA on Monday evening. Prison law enforcement placed police cars at the perimeter of the property but took no action to force students to leave — even as the first group to arrive grew to about 400.

At one point, protesters moved onto the adjacent 900 West Street in South Salt Lake, filling it from side to side and blocking traffic for 30 minutes as they marched with Palestinian flags and signs that read “Liberate Palestine.”

Employees of the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah accompanied them. The organization had released a statement earlier in the day calling on the university to give students space to protest.

“We are not just students. We are history makers,” said Dani Salinas-Tovar, who just completed her second year at the university. “You can’t ignore our voices.”

Salinas-Tovar spoke to the crowd about previous protests in the United States that led to change, mentioning calls for withdrawal from apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and rallies against the war in Vietnam in the 1960s.

She said: “We are walking the same path as our brothers and sisters before us.”

(Bethany Baker | The Salt Lake Tribune) A protester participates in a dance during a pro-Palestinian protest at the Salt Lake County Metro Jail in South Salt Lake on Tuesday, April 30, 2024.

Anna Harden

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