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UNM issues ultimatum to campus pro-Palestinian protesters

The pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of New Mexico Duck Pond.
Nash Jones
The pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of New Mexico Duck Pond. The university has warned protestors to dismantle the camp by 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 14.

The University of New Mexico issued an ultimatum to protesters at a pro-Palestinian encampment at the campus Duck Pond Tuesday afternoon, warning them to dismantle the camp by 5 p.m.

A statement from university President Garnett Stokes alleged numerous violations of university policy, ranging from restricting access to a public space to theft and public urination and defecation.

Members of the encampment have insisted to KUNM that they are committed to nonviolence in their protest.

Stokes said so far no citations had been issued but that after 5 p.m. Tuesday there would be, “Institutional enforcement of UNM policies and local, state and federal law.”

In an interview with KUNM, Source New Mexico reporter Austin Fisher said that, as of 5:45 p.m., no uniformed police officers had yet arrived to clear the encampment.

“I’m actually seeing the protestors re-enforcing their encampment,” he said. He added that demonstrators were giving speeches, eating food, and making signs as more mutual aid deliveries arrived.

“They say they will stay here at the encampment at the Duck Pond until they get an official commitment from the university to divest from any companies involved in Israel,” Fisher said. “And until they get a commitment that there will be amnesty for all the protesters facing criminal charges and the students that might be facing academic discipline.”

UNM and State Police arrested 16 protestors, including five students, who occupied the Student Union Building on April 30. They’re facing charges including criminal trespass and wrongful use of public property. Those charges will be formally presented in court Wednesday, according to Fisher.

President Stokes said in her statement Tuesday that the UNM administration has met with members of the UNM Divestment Coalition, which has called for the university to investigate its financial holdings and dissociate from any activities which support the government of Israel in the use of military force against Palestinians, and in alleged human rights violations.

She said that UNM will research its investment portfolio by August of this year, which was identified as a target date by student advocates, and is committed to public disclosure of the results of the investigation.

UNM law librarian and professor Ernesto Longa, who is an advocate for divestment, told KUNM that the meeting happened this morning between President Stokes and other members of the administration, members of the divestment coalition, and representatives of the encampment. They spoke for about an hour and a half.

Longa called the university's commitment to investigate its finances a movement in the right direction, although he noted that the university had made no commitment to divest as a result of its investigations.

He added that he did not think it would be fair to dismantle the encampment, saying that students should be allowed to exercise their right to free speech.

One participant in the encampment, Isaac Spafford, who is a community member, told KUNM that offering to disclose investment information without committing to divest, “means nothing.”

Spafford called the commitment to disclose investments a “bald-faced attempt to make this all go away without actually changing anything.”

On the alleged violations of university policy, Spafford said, they can’t speak to each accusation individually, but said, “I can say that we have been very intentional of holding people accountable to certain standards of safety and decency.”

They added, however, that, “the point of an encampment is being in violation of policy and that it is disruptive.”

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information becomes available. UNM holds KUNM's license but has no input into our coverage.

Nash Jones (they/them) is a general assignment reporter in the KUNM newsroom and the local host of NPR's All Things Considered (weekdays on KUNM, 5-7 p.m. MT). You can reach them at nashjones@kunm.org or on Twitter @nashjonesradio.
Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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  • The pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of New Mexico has been holding space day and night at the campus’s duck pond for the last week following similar protests across the country. Last night, organizers moved into the Student Union Building. New Mexico State Police forcibly removed the protestors around 3:30 a.m., detaining several.
  • Pro-Palestinian protestors on college campuses have taken up “Disclose and divest” as a rallying cry.The ask is for universities to stop sending money to entities that stand to profit from the war in Gaza, and to make more information about their finances public so it’s clear what those investments are.KUNM’s Megan Myscofski spoke with Ernesto Longa, a University of New Mexico law librarian who is helping to organize faculty and students calling for divestment. He says that there’s precedent at UNM for this.
  • Protesters on the University of New Mexico campus are still stationed at the Duck Pond, calling for the school to divest from Israel.Source New Mexico Editor Shaun Griswold hosted a panel on New Mexico in Focus, where he spoke with three people who are involved with or witnessed the protests – UNM Professor Ernesto Longa, who is leading research on UNM’s investments, Daily Lobo Editor Paloma Chapa and Civil Rights and Criminal Defense Attorney Ahmad Assed.
  • Some opponents of student pro-Palestinian protests calling for divestment from Israel have labeled those actions as antisemitic. At the same time, many protesters on and off campuses across the country are, in fact, Jewish.Jeff Proctor with New Mexico in Focus sat down with Sophie Leah, who is with a local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace and a University of New Mexico alumna. She says that the organization has pushed back on violence against Palestinians for a long time and supports current student protests.
  • The University of New Mexico is one of many schools around the country where students have set up pro-Palestinian encampments as a form of protest against the ongoing war in Gaza. Campus police had them clear their encampment, but did not send them home Monday night.