UIC Police Use Excessive Force against Palestinian Students

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | January 22, 2024 – ADC is troubled by the findings from the recent Independent Civilian report and the CBS Chicago investigation on the November 14 arrest of a Palestinian American student by the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) police. The report details how UIC police racially profiled its student body and subjected a Palestinian American UIC student to a harrowing eight-hour arrest experience for defacement, only to end up dismissing the charge. It is worth noting that the CBS Chicago investigation found that despite more than a hundred calls reporting incidents of defacement, “the student is the only person who has been arrested for defacement on campus in years.” CBS footage of the arrest reveals an officer referring to the student, who wears the hijab, with racially charged language (i.e. she is wearing “a head-dress thing”).  It also shows that the facilities worker who reported her to the police went out of his way to follow and then report her, all of which confirms that she was targeted precisely because she is Palestinian, Arab, and/or Muslim.

First and foremost, UIC must hold their police accountable and take responsibility for its excessive and dehumanizing response. This includes actively pursuing policies which would end the racial profiling of Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students in order to ensure that the UIC campus is safe for our community.

On November 14th, 2023, a UIC student accused of writing “Free Palestine” in permanent ink was arrested by campus police. The arrest came after the student was racially profiled and stalked by a UIC staff member. The student was then subject to a humiliating arrest inside her classroom and in front of her peers and professor. She was then driven to the UIC police station where she was held by herself in a cell without windows, searched, and questioned before being informed of her rights. The student was held for 6 hours before being transferred to a Metra police station for fingerprinting. Body-camera footage released after the incident indicated that at least one UIC police officer thought her transfer to the Metra police station was unnecessary and that she should have been released earlier.

ADC urges UIC to  implement the following recommendations:

  • Issue a formal apology to the student and the Arab American community on campus, coming from both the police and the administration.
  • Ensure UIC’s Arab American Cultural Center has the resources needed to support students during times of grave trauma and engagement with racist stereotypes and actions.
  • Commit to ensuring that MENA students are accurately counted so that the campus adequately meets their needs.
  • Commit to partner with  community members and faculty experts studying the Arab region and Arab Americans in the development of policies and practices related to Palestinian and Arab students on campus.

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “UIC administrators cannot sweep this incident under the rug. It has never been more dangerous to be a Palestinian or Arab student on college campuses, and the overreach by UIC police is an extension of the targeting that ADC has seen nationwide. We fully expect the university to take the recommendations put forward in the report seriously and incorporate them into its actions moving forward.”

UIC is currently under federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education for allegations of discriminating against Palestinian students, following a complaint submitted by Palestine Legal.

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