EVANSTON, Ill. – A demonstration Saturday by Northwestern University students ended as a violent protest with property damage, police said.
The protest was started by approximately 150 students who are demanding the university abolish its police department, part of a group called ‘NU Community Not Cops.’ A statement from Northwestern University Graduate Workers (NUGW) said two members were pepper-sprayed during the protests.
The statement said Evanston police arrived to the protests in riot gear with K-9 units, aided by the Northern Illinois Police Alarm System, who are trained in ‘tactical crowd control.’ NUGW alleges the environment facilitated violence.
Police said protesters threw bricks at Evanston police officers, shined high-powered lasers into their eyes and threw fireworks at officers.
Police Chief Demetrius Cook spoke out Sunday, saying the protesters turned to violence.
“We allowed them to do peaceful assembly and we would have let it ride until they turned to violence with bricks,” Cook said.
In response, police said they deployed pepper spray and arrested one Northwestern student.
The student was released from Evanston police custody early Sunday, the university said.
A statement from NUGW reads:
“We unequivocally condemn the police brutality on display last night. Last night proved once again that it is heavily armed, militarized police who create and escalate violence. As NU Community not Cops has long argued, and as we unfortunately saw on display last evening, the police do not, and never will, keep us safe.”
The statement also criticized an e-mail from Northwestern President Morton Schapiro sent to the campus community on October 19, which the organization said warned students ‘who violate rules and laws’ that he was ‘making it abundantly clear that you will be held accountable.’
The organization said members reported an increase in police aggression and repeated attempts by police to provoke the protesters in the days following the e-mail, and called for Schapiro’s immediate resignation.
Evanston Mayor Stephen Hagerty penned a letter to the President of Northwestern University, saying that residents do not support protesters throwing objects at police officers and damaging property.
Hagerty also said he expects the university to cover the cost for city officers responding to a month-long series of anti-police protests, mostly led by students.
Northwestern issued the following statement.
“As we have stated before, Northwestern strongly supports the free expression of ideas and vigorous debate, abiding principles that are fundamental to our University. Northwestern protects the right to protest, but we do not condone breaking the law. Should members of the Northwestern community be found in violation of University policies, state or federal laws, they will be held accountable through our processes.”