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Israel-Hamas war protesters temporarily take over building on University of Chicago campus

Steam rises over Lake Michigan near the Chicago skyline, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford) Steam rises over Lake Michigan near the Chicago skyline, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)
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Chicago, Ill. -

A group protesting the war in Gaza and demanding that the University of Chicago divest from companies doing business with Israel temporarily took over a building on the school’s campus.

Members of the group surrounded the Institute of Politics building around 5 p.m. Friday while others made their way inside, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The brief occupation came as other colleges across the country, anxious to prepare for commencement season, either negotiated agreements with students or called in police to dismantle protest camps.

The Chicago protest follows the May 7 clearing of a pro-Palestinian tent encampment at the school by police. University of Chicago administrators had initially adopted a permissive approach, but said earlier this month that the protest had crossed a line and caused growing concerns about safety.

On Friday, campus police officers using riot shields gained access to the Institute of Politics building and scuffled with protesters. Some protesters climbed from a second-floor window, according to the Sun-Times.

The school said protesters attempted to bar the entrance, damaged university property and ignored directives to clear the way, and that those inside the building left when campus police officers entered.

“The University of Chicago is fundamentally committed to upholding the rights of protesters to express a wide range of views,” school spokesperson Gerald McSwiggan said in a statement. “At the same time, university policies make it clear that protests cannot jeopardize public safety, disrupt the university’s operations or involve the destruction of property.”

No arrests or injuries were reported.

Students and others have set up tent encampments on campuses around the country to protest the Israel-Hamas war, pressing colleges to cut financial ties with Israel. Tensions over the war have been high on campuses since the fall but the pro-Palestinian demonstrations spread quickly following an April 18 police crackdown on an encampment at Columbia University.

The demonstrations reached all corners of the United States, becoming its largest campus protest movement in decades, and spread to other countries, including many in Europe.

Lately, some protesters have taken down their tents, as at Harvard, where student activists this week said the encampment had “outlasted its utility with respect to our demands.” Others packed up after striking deals with college administrators who offered amnesty for protesters, discussions around their investments, and other concessions. On many other campuses, colleges have called in police to clear demonstrations.

More than 2,900 people have been arrested on U.S. campuses over the past month. As summer break approaches, there have been fewer new arrests and campuses have been calmer. Still, colleges have been vigilant for disruptions to commencement ceremonies.

The latest Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas and other militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking an additional 250 hostage. Palestinian militants still hold about 100 captives, and Israel’s military has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.

On Thursday, police began dismantling a pro-Palestinian encampment at DePaul University in Chicago, hours after the school’s president told students to leave the area or face arrest.

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