Protesters raise Palestinian flag on UNC flagpole

The provocation follows early morning arrests at the Chapel Hill ‘Gaza Solidarity Encampment’


Midday on Tuesday, April 30, a confrontation between police and protesters at UNC Chapel Hill was broadcast live on national news networks CNN and Fox News, with objects being thrown at officers who were protecting a flagpole at the center of Polk Place.

Police had rushed into the center of the protests after an enormous American flag flying on a campus flag pole was lowered and replaced with a Palestinian Flag, according to press reports and a post on X from Students for Justice in Palestine, a student group at UNC Chapel Hill.

Previously, in a pre-dawn operation on Tuesday, law enforcement agencies detained 30 individuals participating in the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Polk Place on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.

The encampment lasted around three days and the arrests followed a warning issued by Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts and Provost Chris Clemens at 5:37 a.m., urging the demonstrators to disperse or face consequences.

Only six of the 30 detained were arrested, according to a report from The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at UNC Chapel Hill. All were later released.

The operation began around 7 a.m. and involved multiple agencies such as the UNC Chapel Hill Campus Police, the Orange County Sheriff's Office and North Carolina State Highway Patrol officers. Reports from the scene claim officers from the N.C. State University, UNC Wilmington, and Appalachian State University were also present.

University officials had previously informed protesters the encampment’s tents were in violation of school policies. Those arrested have allegedly been taken to the Orange County Detention Center for processing.

UNC Students for Justice in Palestine organized the protest as a means to pressure the university to sever financial ties with companies tied to Israel.

In a statement, Roberts and Clemens emphasized the need to prioritize the safety of students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors, particularly with quickly approaching final exams and graduation ceremonies.

“This group has now made it clear they will no longer even consider our requests to abide by University policies and have ended our attempts at constructive dialogue,” Roberts and Clemens’ said in a statement. “We must consider the safety of all of our students, faculty and staff, as well as visitors to this campus. Our students are preparing for final exams and end-of-year activities, including graduation, and we will continue to promote an educational environment where they can do so safely and without disruption.”

The statement also says those who refused to comply with the university's directive faced potential arrest, suspension, or expulsion. Reports indicate that more than two dozen individuals were arrested, with at least one person sustaining injuries during the arrests.

Columbia University in New York City remains the most visible encampment, with university faculty going so far as to link arms to protect protesters. But the movement, which generally includes requests for universities to divest from any company doing business with Israel, has spread to schools around the country with varying amounts of permissiveness and consequences.

Police moved in quickly to disperse protesters at University of Texas at Austin, while USC cancelled its main graduation ceremony. North Carolina schools have been somewhat quieter, at least compared to the activities at Columbia, which have drawn the attention of members of Congress, including Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA), who spoke at the school last week.

It is not yet clear what consequences or charges those arrested at UNC Chapel Hill will face.