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At Northwestern University, I study journalism and history. I know how important student movements can be because I still see photos and read about the impacts they have decades later. When students formed encampments across the country demanding their universities divest from companies that profit from Israel’s war on Gaza, I knew people today and generations to come would want to understand what was happening at that moment.

I’ve seen plenty of news stories paint the encampments as violent and antisemitic. What I saw my classmates create was a community based around mutual support and calls for peace.

On Northwestern’s Deering Meadow, a small plaque commemorates student protests against the Vietnam War – prompted by the police crackdowns that killed students at Kent State and Jackson State. How will Northwestern remember the encampment for Palestine that has occupied the same usually-empty field since Thursday morning, and its gains on Monday?

Northwestern’s plaque commemorating protests against the Vietnam War and the police killings of student protesters sits at the base of a tree in Deering Meadow. Pictured on Friday, April 26, blankets used by the encampment in solidarity with Gaza hang to dry on nearby trees. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®

As the death toll of Israel’s war on Gaza exceeds 34,000, students have intensified protests throughout the United States demanding their universities stop investing in companies they see as complicit. According to Axios, almost 2,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators have been arrested on campuses since April 12. In the first hours of Northwestern’s encampment, a similar crackdown seemed imminent.

A Northwestern police officer drags away a tent while protesters form a human chain around remaining tents in the morning of Thursday, April 25. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
A cyclist waving the Palestinian flag rides between a line of protesters and Northwestern police officers at Deering Meadow on Thursday, April 25. After a brief attempt by police to push past faculty to remove the encampment’s tents, protesters linked arms and police backed down. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®

The Northwestern University Divestment Coalition, a group of student and faculty organizations including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, organized the encampment. Even without mass arrests, maintaining momentum through stressful days and rainy nights took more than protest chants – students, faculty and Chicago area residents attended workshops and heard speakers, prayed and picnicked, created art and built infrastructure to keep protesters supplied and connected.

A protester creates a sign using communal supplies to add to the fence separating Sheridan Road from Deering Meadow on Thursday, April 25. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
Hundreds of signs created by protesters cover the fence separating Sheridan Road from Deering Meadow on Monday, April 29, the fifth day of the encampment. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
A table at the encampment marked “Refaat Alareer Memorial Library” pictured on Friday, April 26 contains books, zines and flyers for protesters to borrow. Refaat Alareer, a Palestinian poet, was killed by an Israeli airstrike on December 6, 2023. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
Muslim students and community members pray at the encampment on Friday, April 26. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
A sign pictured on Friday, April 26 instructs protesters to take supplies they need from a tent at the encampment. Food, shelter and other essentials donated by students and residents of the Chicago area were freely available to participants. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
A group of students do their homework at the encampment on Friday, April 26. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®

At most events I cover, people are willing or even happy to be photographed – but protests at Northwestern are an exception. Although the police response was tame compared to other university protests, many students feared the university or potential employers would punish them for participating in pro-Palestine demonstrations.

Student organizers also warned participants about doxxing by counterprotesters. On Sunday, a group of people waving Israeli flags confronted the encampment, and some tried to film protesters with their phones.

Protesters at the encampment wave Palestinian flags after being confronted by a smaller pro-Israel crowd on Sunday, April 28. According to a statement from Jewish Voice for Peace at Northwestern, the counterprotesters also shouted racist slurs and put hands on students before police moved them off of Deering Meadow. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
Israeli flags hang on a barricade in front of Deering Meadow on Sunday, April 28. The pro-Israel crowd that confronted the encampment left after approximately two hours. During and after the counterprotest. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®

On Monday, April 29, organizers announced their agreement with Northwestern administration to a crowd at the encampment. The university’s commitments include greater transparency and input in investments, providing a permanent gathering space for Middle Eastern and North African students, and publicly condemning incidents of doxxing.

As of Thursday, May 2, per the terms of the agreement, only one large tent remains to support protesters. However, the Northwestern Divestment Coalition continues to host speakers and workshops on Deering Meadow.

On Monday, April 29, shortly after organizers announced an agreement with Northwestern to scale back the encampment to one aid tent in exchange for some, but not all, of their demands, encampment participants gather under a tree to discuss next steps while others begin collapsing tents and tarps. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®
Pieces of fabric with wishes for the future written by protesters hang from the branches of a tree pictured on Sunday, April 28 at Deering Meadow. Photo by Seeger Gray for The TRiiBE®

Northwestern may or may not commemorate the encampment with a plaque by a tree. But student activists will not soon forget the impact of the community they formed at Deering Meadow – and neither will history.

is a student photojournalist at Northwestern University.