A pro-Palestinian protest peacefully wound down at the Johns Hopkins University early Tuesday, as organizers packed up their encampment apparently to avoid police intervention.

“This is not the end,” an organizer said as students and others took down their tents and put away the supplies overnight. Organizers said they would be back. Organizers said on social media Tuesday morning that a group stayed overnight.

“The encampment never broke — it has been continuously going since yesterday afternoon, held overnight by a small brave team,” the Hopkins Justice Collective wrote.

Johns Hopkins is the latest college campus across the country to see demonstrations related to the Israel-Hamas war. Some have canceled in-person classes; the University of Southern California canceled its commencement.

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The encampment at the Johns Hopkins University came down after a few hours, but organizers said they would return. (Cody Boteler)

In an email from President Ron Daniels and Provost Ray Jayawardhana sent to to the campus community Tuesday morning and posted to the university’s website, the officials wrote: “Our conversations were frank and constructive, and we are pleased to report that we reached an agreement early this morning to support the students’ continuing protest.”

University officials said they met with students for “several hours.”

In a statement released later Tuesday, protest organizers pushed back on the university’s characterization of the meeting, saying no agreement was reached.

“What happened at the negotiations were far from ‘frank and constructive,’ in the email’s phrase,” organizers said in a news release. “As students, we felt betrayed by their callous disregard for the consequences of calling BPD. Members of the encampment held their ground and remained throughout the night despite the university’s threat.”

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In the statement, organizers said they “are not going anywhere until [their] demands are met.”

The protest began around 4 p.m. Monday with an initial crowd of more than 100 protesters gathered at “the beach” on campus for what was supposed to be a “study strike.” The crowd appeared to double in size throughout the evening.

“We hereby establish the Johns Hopkins encampment for a free Palestine,” a student activist announced early in the protest. A handcrafted banner was draped over the “Johns Hopkins” on a campus sign so that it read “The Free Palestine University.”

Less than three hours after the demonstration began, Baltimore-based reporter Jaisal Noor posted a video to X that appeared to show Branville G. Bard Jr., the university’s vice president for public safety, addressing the crowd via a bullhorn. Though largely drowned out by students shouting “free, free Palestine,” Noor reported that the crowd was “told to disperse or face arrest or disciplinary action.”

J.B. Bird, a spokesperson for Johns Hopkins, confirmed that Bard told the students to disperse, but was unable to confirm whether Bard told the students about actions they might face if they didn’t comply.

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A press release issued by the Hopkins Justice Collective, which organized the event, said it “established the Palestine Solidarity Encampment to hold our University accountable for its financial and academic participation in the ongoing Palestinian genocide.”

“Students have always been a core part of of radical movements across the nation,” said Savannah, one of the students serving as a spokesperson for the collective, who declined to provide her last name, citing safety concerns. “We really feel like we’re just one grain of sand on the beach.”

Two people with the collective called the effort a collaboration between various student groups and community organizations.

As the sun set, chanting from protesters could be heard from a block away. Many wore masks covering their faces as they called for Palestine to be free, shouting, ”From the river to the sea.”

Students chanted “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest” as a Baltimore Police Department helicopter circled above them. University students and others cheered as some cars driving by honked their horns.

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The crowd remained peaceful throughout the night, many sitting quietly on the grass while listening to student speakers. A police helicopter circled sporadically overhead.

The organizers said the university reached out to students, saying it would be willing to meet with them if they cleared out the encampment by 9 p.m. But that wasn’t enough for the group leaders, who said they want the university to commit to negotiate.

More than 100 Hopkins faculty and staff members from across departments have signed an open letter supporting “diverse student protests and demonstrations” at the university. The letter calls on university leadership “to continue to fulfill your responsibilities to defend peaceful protesters, uphold academic freedom, and reject any pressure to criminalize demonstrations.”

A Baltimore Police Department helicopter circles the pro-Palestinian encampment at the Johns Hopkins University. (J. M. Giordano for The Baltimore Banner)

In an informational paper listing “participant agreements” handed out at the beginning of the demonstration, the Hopkins Justice Collective wrote that “Anti-Palestinian sentiment, Islamophobia, Anti-semitism, or any kind of hate and discrimination, will not be tolerated,” noting the “diverse leaders and participants at this encampment.” Students and others were instructed to “ignore opposition” and deescalate questionable behavior.

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Organizers on Monday held towels in a circle, shielding Muslim students participating in nightly prayer from the crowd for safety and privacy.

Students gather on the Johns Hopkins University campus. (Cody Boteler)

The collective also released a list of demands for Johns Hopkins, which they also printed out on papers sitting on a table in the front of the protest. The demands include calling for a boycott of partnerships with Tel Aviv University and the demilitarization of JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory, which they say “has been a key contributor to weapons engineering and development through contracts with the defense industry.”

The group also wants financial divestment from companies like Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Google that have contracts with the Israeli government, which their demands refer to as an “apartheid state.” The move is in keeping with several other campus protests around the country in which people have demanded their institutions cut financial ties with Israel.

The demonstrations have roiled campuses, including the University of Southern California, where the “main stage” graduation ceremony has been canceled and Columbia University in New York City, where students are facing suspension if they don’t leave an encampment. The number of arrests at colleges nationwide is approaching 1,000, according to the Associated Press.

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