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The Indiana Daily Student

campus administration

State Rep. Pierce, IU administration provide details on lead-up to Dunn Meadow arrests

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State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) and IU President Pamela Whitten have each released more information about the lead-up to the arrest of 57 protesters by Indiana State Police in Dunn Meadow on April 25 and 27. 

Pierce sent a statement Thursday to the Indiana Daily Student about a conversation he had with ISP Superintendent Doug Carter on April 26 following the arrest of 34 protesters by ISP on April 25 in Dunn Meadow. 

In the statement, Pierce, who is also a senior lecturer in the Media School, said Carter informed him ISP had to “slow the University down” prior to making arrests in Dunn Meadow. 

"I was told by the State Police it had to slow the University down because the University wanted them to act quickly,” Pierce said over email. “The State Police said its standard protocol is to first establish a line of communication with protesters and take some time to see if they can convince the protesters to comply with their orders before resorting to the use of force." 

Pierce said he understood “act quickly” to mean immediately enforcing IU’s new policy prohibiting the use of unapproved structures, like tents, in Dunn Meadow. The new rule, which changed a 1969 policy permitting unauthorized structures, was enacted April 24, one day before the start of the encampment. 

Pierce previously criticized the university’s decision to invite state police onto campus as “indefensible.” 

On the first day of the encampment April 25, ISP and IU Police announced several warnings to protesters that arrests would follow if they did not immediately take down their tents. Police then arrested 34 protesters after they did not take down all the tents. 

On April 27, ISP and IUPD arrested another 23 people after protesters reconstructed the tents April 26. Police again gave warnings to protesters about 20 minutes before arrests began. 

Over the first three days of the encampment, IUPD also handed out flyers and posted signs stating the university’s policy on tents in Dunn Meadow and that “persons knowingly or intentionally interfering with the possession or use of IU property without consent may be subject to arrest and prosecution for criminal trespass.” 

Carter did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication. 

Mark Bode, IU executive director of media relations, referred to past statements made by Whitten and Provost Rahul Shrivastav on April 25 and 28. 

On April 25, Whitten and Shrivastav sent an email to faculty explaining the decision to change the Dunn Meadow temporary structure policy and request ISP assistance in the arrests. 

They wrote the decision to change the policy allowed them to “balance free speech and safety in the context of similar protests occurring nationally.” 

Whitten and Shrivastav also wrote ISP were brought in due to “the expectation of a high number of external participants” in the protests. Of the 57 protesters arrested April 25 and 27, 12 had no or unknown affiliation with IU, according to Indiana Public Media. The rest were faculty and staff, students, former students or admitted students. 

Whitten and Shrivastav released a public statement April 28 addressing the arrests. In it, they said encampments such as the one in Dunn Meadow become “magnets for those making threats of violence or who may not have the best interest of Indiana University at heart.”  

The IDS cannot confirm any instances of violence initiated by protesters from the encampment. The statement also did not specifically mention the police’s forceful and aggressive arrests of IU students and faculty. 

Whitten and Shrivastav said the encampment campaign coincides with a rise in antisemitism across the country and university, and antisemitic incidents have been linked with the movement. The statement provides no specific evidence of antisemitic incidents on IU’s campus.  

There have been reports on social media and expressed to IDS reporters of both antisemitic and Islamophobic violence on campus this semester, including in the days following the encampment’s construction. The IDS is working to confirm these reports.  

Whitten and Shrivastav also addressed the decisions to order ISP to take down the encampments. They again cited balancing “legitimate safety concerns related to un-regulated encampments and our commitment to free speech” in the email.  

“After standing down for 24 hours, we sought to give the protestors the opportunity to comply with policy, particularly the 1969 prohibition of tents after 11 p.m.,” the email read. "They chose to expand the encampment after 11 p.m. Therefore, on Saturday we again made the decision to enforce university policy and remove tents and other temporary structures.” 

On May 14 and 15, Whitten held listening sessions with College of Arts and Sciences faculty. 

According to a summary of the sessions obtained by the IDS, Whitten claimed she saw evidence of wooden shields, pepper spray and “creek rocks” in the encampment which indicated IU was at risk of violence. This statement was confirmed by a recording obtained by Indiana Public Media. The university has not publicized any evidence of pepper spray or “creek rocks” in the encampment. 

IDS reporters observed wooden shields multiple days in the encampment. One protester told the IDS on April 26 they were for protection in case police acted violently. 

Ben Hunter, IU Superintendent for Public Safety, also spoke at the May 15 listening session. According to Indiana Public Media, he said the protest was part of a national movement to organize “from foreign actors to domestic actors” with millions of dollars put into a “game plan.” Hunter did not elaborate on this claim. He also said he was briefed by ISP and the FBI on additional details he couldn’t discuss. 

The IDS reached out to IUPD Public Information Officer Hannah Skibba and ISP Bloomington District 33 Public Information Officer Kevin Getz for more information on Whitten and Hunter’s claims. 

Skibba said in an email IUPD is unable to comment on those specific details due to the ongoing investigation. 

“The Indiana University Police Department acknowledges the public interest and concern regarding incidents surrounding the encampment at Dunn Meadow,” part of the statement read. “We understand the importance of transparency and accountability in our operations and strive to keep the community informed.” 

Skibba also sent the following statement on behalf of IUPD and ISP: 

“As a standard practice, our department does not release intelligence or information provided by other law enforcement agencies, federal entities, or intelligence organizations. This ensures the protection of sensitive data, the safety of individuals involved, and the effectiveness of ongoing investigations.” 

Salomé Cloteaux, Jonathan Frey and Andrew Miller contributed reporting to this story. 

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