U of M buildings closed for third day as protest encampment continues

Published 12:45 pm Wednesday, May 1, 2024

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Buildings along Northrop Mall on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus remained closed for a third day Wednesday, amid ongoing anti-war protests.

Pro-Palestinian protesters have set up an encampment on the mall. They’re calling on the U of M to cut financial and other ties with companies and institutions that have links to the Israeli military.

Protest organizers said Tuesday that they’d be meeting with university leaders on Wednesday to discuss their demands. University officials had earlier confirmed that an offer was made to meet with the leaders of some of the student groups involved in the protest.

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Campus buildings that remained closed Wednesday included Coffman Student Union, Northrop Memorial Auditorium, the Weisman Art Museum and several academic and lab buildings. Other buildings on the East Campus were accessible only with U Cards.

Monday was the last day of classes at the U. Tuesday and Wednesday were scheduled study days ahead of final exams that start Thursday.

The building closures started Monday afternoon. The university’s decision to close the buildings amid the protests drew criticism from unions representing graduate assistants and employees who work in facilities management and food service, who have been affected by the closures.

The unions called the closures “an overreaction on the part of administration,” and said they’ve caused graduate assistants to be locked out of their offices and laboratories. The unions also said some food service workers and custodians are losing out on pay while buildings are closed.

The closures also drew concern and criticism from some students not involved in the protests, who noted that Walter Library in particular is used as a study spot by a lot of U students — who now can’t access it just as final exams are set to begin.

“I think that everybody should have the freedom to protest if they want to — it’s freedom of speech, it’s why the First Amendment’s there,” Marko Mirkovic told MPR News. “But I think that once it starts impacting individuals around you in a negative way, I think that there needs to be some consideration for that as well.”

University officials posted a list of alternate study spaces for students who usually go to Walter Library or the U’s Mathematics Library, which is also affected by the closures.