At UVA, One Pro-Palestinian Protest Disperses, a Second Persists

by James A. Bacon

One of two pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the University of Virginia wound down around 5 p.m. yesterday without incident. Although the rally was marked by all-too-familiar anti-Israel chants and sloganeering, protesters dispersed at the scheduled time. A parallel demonstration, a tent-free “encampment,” continues this morning.

University officials set clear expectations from the beginning that university rules would be enforced. When a pro-Palestinian group erected tents Tuesday near the University Chapel in imitation of encampments at other campuses, university authorities quickly told them to take down the structures, for which they had not obtained permits. In other interactions, Police Chief Tim Longo personally engaged with protesters to inform them about university policy regarding trespassing and amplified sound.

“The protest activity near the University Chapel has continued peacefully and in compliance with University policy since it began Tuesday afternoon,” said University spokesperson Brian Coy. “Organizers have complied with requests to remove tents and other prohibited materials.”

Chief Longo (second from right) explains university rules to demonstrators. Image captured from Daily Progress video.

A separate demonstration on the Lawn and a small counterprotest near the Edgar Shannon Library were held and concluded Wednesday afternoon without incident, Coy said. “Representatives from UVA Student Affairs and University Police continue to engage with organizers to inform them of their right to demonstrate in public spaces, and to remind them of prohibited materials and behavior.”

The restrained behavior at UVA stands in sharp contrast to confrontations at Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University, Mary Washington University and numerous higher-ed institutions across the country that have resulted in hundreds of arrests.

The Jefferson Council experienced first-hand how diligent University police were in maintaining order and safety. Our social-media correspondent observing the protests was questioned by police for uttering the word “hostage.” While passing a lamp post on the Lawn, he was recording himself observing how someone had removed the collection of flyers and “hostage posters” that had plastered it the last time he was on Grounds. An RMC contract employee overheard him and reported back to the police. Later, our correspondent found himself surrounded by UPD officers asking about the remark. Fortunately, he was able to produce the recording that clarified exactly what he said, and police let him go about his way.

(In the video above the contract employee in the blue shirt can be seen crossing paths with our correspondent just as he says the words “hostage poster,” referring to flyers that Jewish students had put up previously highlighting the plight of Israeli hostages in the hands of Hamas.)

The Jefferson Council takes no umbrage at the incident. We are pleased to see that UPD was being extra cautious. We mention the incident only to illustrate the state of heightened vigilance.

Our correspondent also noted that the doors on the Lawn rooms were devoid of most of the posters and flyers — many of them promoting Pro-Palestinian events — that had been defacing them in violation of lease terms for months. Posters are required to fit on a small, discrete bulletin board mounted on each door.

While the Grounds remained orderly yesterday, there were some darker undercurrents.

WINA radio talk show host Rob Schilling forwarded this video he had posted on his blog, in which a protester tried to stop someone filming the “encampment” as he walked through. Said the protester: “Excuse me, nobody gave you permission to do it. You can’t be filming people when you’re walking through, man.”

It is interesting that a protester wearing a mask for purposes of concealment in violation of state law is asserting a right, which does not exist, to halt someone else from lawfully taking video footage. Both the mask wearing and the ban against photo taking have been recurring features of leftist and pro-Palestinian rallies all along. (UVA’s position is that the local Commonwealth’s Attorney has said he would not support criminal charges against individuals wearing face coverings who were engaged in assembly and expression protected by the First Amendment and not otherwise engaged in criminal or disruptive conduct.)

Another ominous sign was a post appearing yesterday on the Instagram account of “uvaencampmentforgaza” (show at left).

Come out to UVA chapel now

We need members urgently

Help us defend the camp!

Given the lack of any aggressive moves by University police, it’s not clear what the protesters believed needing defending.

The separate events — one a conventional rally on the Lawn, the other a would-be “encampment” by the Chapel — apparently reflect differences within the pro-Palestinian movement at UVA. Vague tit-for-tat comments on social media suggest a disagreement over tactics.

The Lawn rally was sponsored by two UVA student organizations. Dissenters and UVA Apartheid Divest promoted the Lawn protest to cap a five-day series of events. This is the group that dispersed yesterday without incident.

UVA Encampment for Gaza is a different organization. Its 1,588 followers appear to consist of a mix of grad students and adults from the Charlottesville community. Many followers are artists — painters, musicians, filmmakers, digital works, and the like. Their profiles come out of central casting for Charlottesville socialist counter-culture.

Social media posts show a special interest in university police activities, suggesting that organizers were preparing for the possibility of a confrontation.

“The people of Gaza have called on us to take back our cities and universities and demand disclosure and divestment,” stated its inaugural post. “Welcome to the People’s university — we invite one and all to our liberated zone for Gaza.” Masks were required, it added, for “COVID-19 precautions.” The messaging is closely aligned with that of national Students for Justice in Palestine rhetoric. 

After the university directive to take down the tents, Encampment for Gaza posted, “Need bodies at UVA Chapel immediately! Cops have already issued a warning for dispersal.”

The next post took note of the presence of police cars:

We noticed around 11 PM that around 20 cars were lined up the sides of McCormick Road surrounding the sides of the Chapel. The cars were a mix of vehicles marked for use by facilities management and a combination of marked and unmarked police cars. Legal observers reported multiple service vehicles pulling up, parking, and speaking to officers before getting into police cars and driving to an off site location, indicating a coordinated response by police.

The post hinted at tensions between protesters and the UVA administration.

Administration ADMITTED to our liaisons that they blocked the roads because of our presence in order to curtail our growth. They claim that the extra police that were present at the site for “construction,” but students, including those who lived in the area/were frequently up at night, agreed that construction at that hour was unusual. Our legal observers agreed it was very odd and warranted an abundance of caution as blocking a road with parked cars is a pattern they have observed in advance of police escalation at other sites. We subsequently put out a call for more bodies and numbers needed at camp.

A follow-up post called for supporters to report police activity. “Please ensure that info is accurate to not contribute to rumors or fear-mongering and so everyone can act accordingly.” It used the acronym S.A.L.T. — Size of police presence, Activity, Location, and Time.

As of this morning, UVA Encampment for Gaza had not yet dispersed.

The number of protesters at both events varied by time of day as participants came and went. Eyeball estimates suggest 100 to 200 on the Lawn and up to 100 near the Chapel. A Jewish-led counter-demonstration near Shannon (Alderman) Library lasted about three hours. Wednesday was the day before exams, and the overwhelming majority of UVA students seemed preoccupied with other matters.

Still, radicalized townies don’t worry about exams. Artists don’t have fixed schedules. Their vigil at the chapel continues. It cannot be said that the protests are yet over.

This article has been republished with permission from Bacon’s Rebellion.

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14 days ago

So of course when feeling the heat of public scrutiny, including from entities like the TJC, UVA leftist professors and their associated administrations recognize the optics are not in their favor. And yes, this being a critical election year where fear of losing power is front and center, in their calculations they are forced to tone it down for the moment. The long game though is far more important.

In all these campus protests the most glaringly evident new development is the self exposed leftist faculty out in the open coaching their useful idiot students and locking arms with them. All while spewing and promoting violence and hate against Jews. Can you imagine what it would feel like for a Jewish student to recognize one of their own professors doing this? New enrollment at Yeshiva University has recently skyrocketed.

It must be an eye opener especially for Jewish UVA donors to realize that they have been bamboozled by UVA with their money going to support professors and students calling for their very destruction. And who have been joined by Jewish hating elements outside universities who comprise a very sizable component coming onto university campuses to disrupt the critical end of academic year activities.

This all epitomizes the insanity of leftist progressives(yes, democrats) when allowed to infiltrate a vital institution in this case tertiary education. The following concise and clear perspective lays out clearly the cancer that must be surgically excised for the patient to survive. And no, a momentary calculated adherence to rules the disregard of which has led to this present day madness, will not fool and dissuade from the critical necessity of their excision in order to ensure the long term prognosis of the patient.