May 23, 2024

President Robert L. Manuel, Executive Vice President Sherri Sidler, Director of Public Safety Mike Dohm, Vice President for Student Affairs Eugene L. Zdziarski, DePaul University Administration,

We write on behalf of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN), an organization dedicated to Immigrant Rights and Latin American Human Rights, committed to dismantling structures of oppression and violence both domestically and internationally. Our mission compels us to challenge militaristic agendas, capitalism, imperialism, and white supremacy, standing in solidarity with marginalized communities in Latin America and the Immigrant Justice community in Chicago and across the United States.

CRLN has a decades-long history of collaboration with DePaul University, recognizing the Vincentian commitment to respecting human rights. As long-time partners in student education, we are deeply troubled by the University’s violent eviction of the peaceful student encampment on May 16, 2024. The students’ desire for dialogue, activism, and dissent should never be met with violence. The disproportionate nature of these actions not only undermines the principles of academic freedom and free expression but also contradicts the University’s professed commitment to social justice and human rights.

We unapologetically stand with the students and find it imperative to express that the violent acts of May 16 should never have happened. DePaul University’s decision to send riot police against its own students is an unspeakable offense against freedom of expression and the right to dissent. These actions have inflicted trauma on students, university staff, faculty, and the community, which the University must acknowledge and repair.

In 2023, CRLN was awarded the HumanitiesX fellowship, an honor we greatly appreciate. In collaboration with DePaul faculty, we developed a course for the 2024 academic year, where students connected historical events of the past to current movements and injustices impacting Central America, specifically in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Students interrogated the Western idea of democracy within the context of neoliberalism, highlighting how U.S. governments fund wars while promoting an imperialist version of democracy. The student encampment and activism in support of the people of Palestine embodied the challenge set out by HumanitiesX. Students are now critically examining how democracy functions in the United States amid rising global fascism and have experienced firsthand how their rights have been limited for holding dissenting opinions. This is not merely historical analysis; it is a lived experience of Democracy and Rights today.

On May 16, at 5:30 AM, riot police from the Chicago Police Department, following a complaint signed by DePaul President Rob Manuel against its own student body, violently raided, and dismantled the student solidarity encampment for Palestine. CPD officers tore through the encampment, throwing students’ personal belongings into garbage trucks paid for by the administration, violently arresting at least two students, pulling off the hijab of one, and injuring others. CPD prevented students from retrieving their belongings. The raid occurred just hours after Nakba Day commemorations. It is now clear that DePaul University’s administrators chose to call the Chicago Police Department on the student protest encampment following President Rob Manuel’s decision to cease negotiations with students.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza began on October 7, 2023. Over 40,000 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including the destruction of hospitals, schools, and universities. The DePaul Divestment Coalition, a multiethnic, multifaith group of students, has been calling on DePaul University to divest from the killing of Palestinian civilians. The DePaul student encampment on April 30th was the longest-standing encampment in the country. This space cultivated political education sessions, dancing, singing, shared meals, community building, praying, discussions, debates, and unity until it was violently destroyed.

We are grateful and commend the courageous students who built the peaceful encampment as a protest against the genocide being committed with U.S. tax dollars against the people of Palestine. Their commitment to transparency and their advocacy for divestment from companies and institutions complicit in the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime is a lesson to us all. The students are on the right side of history, and we must listen to their call.

We echo the demands of the DePaul Divestment Coalition, supported by thousands of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members, which is committed to ensuring that DePaul University divests from entities involved in harm and violence abroad, and instead invests in the community.

In light of these urgent concerns, we urge the DePaul University administration to take immediate action by engaging in meaningful dialogue with students, disclosing its investment portfolio, and committing to divestment from complicit entities. It is imperative that the University uphold its principles of academic freedom, social justice, and human rights by respecting the rights of students to peacefully advocate for justice and equality. Dissent should not be punished. We call upon the administration to heed the demands of the students and take concrete steps towards creating a campus environment that fosters inclusivity, transparency, and a genuine engagement with social justice.

Silence is complicity. Silence will not absolve us.


The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America                      

Jhonathan F. Gómez

Jhonathan F. Gómez has blogged 180 posts