Contractors spray-painted over pro-Palestinian protesters at Case Western Reserve University

May 9, 2024 in News, Video by RBN Staff





CLEVELAND, Ohio – Students are accusing contractors hired by Case Western Reserve University of assault after they were spray-painted while protesting for Palestine.

Students painted the Advocacy and Spirit walls on Monday night with the Palestinian flag and messages that included “I dream of breaking the siege,” “Come together in peace” and the number of Palestinian children killed in Gaza since war between Israel and Hamas broke out in October.

Early Tuesday morning, contractors hired by the college were ordered to paint over the walls because the administration said the messaging was “threatening, intimidating and antisemitic,” according to an email from Eric Kaler, Case’s president.

To stop the contractors, several students stood in front of the Spirit Wall as workers directly sprayed white paint over them. One student, wearing a face shield, was seen completely covered in the paint in a video shared with The Plain Dealer and by Case’s Students for Justice in Palestine group.

Kaler released a statement that said he was “disturbed” by what occurred and apologized to the college community Tuesday evening for the incident.

“Let me be clear: No students — or any individuals — should ever be treated this way, especially on a campus where our core values center on providing a safe, welcoming environment. This is not who we are as an institution, and I am deeply sorry this ever occurred,” he said.

Ameer Alkayali, 18, is seen in the video being spray-painted on early Tuesday morning. Alkayali, a Palestinian-American, just finished his freshman year at the University of Cincinnati. He has been protesting with Case students since the first day of their encampment last week when he was also detained and released.

“I stood against the wall, and the painters asked ‘Should we continue?’ The cops showed general confusion and didn’t tell them to stop,” he said. “So, as seen in the video, they continue to just paint right over us.

“They told us to not put our hands in front of the machine because it’s dangerous. And we put our hands up, and they still continued to paint on our hands and sprayed us with it?”

He said he plans to take legal action against Case’s administration and its public safety department.

“We were coughing, and it didn’t come out of my skin for hours,” he said. “Like it’s still in my hair. I can see it under my nails, and there was no sort of medical or any assistance with the situation after from Case or local police.”

The university is investigating the incident.

On Tuesday night, the Spirit Wall was painted again. This time with a pro-Israeli message: “They call for intifada so we call them terrorists.”

Kaler said the college will “hold individuals responsible for this behavior, including the failure of our own officers to intervene.”

“Again, I want to reiterate my sincere regret for this incident. As with any violation of our codes of conduct, we will take action to hold them accountable,” he said.

In a statement Wednesday, Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb and the city’s police chief, Annie Todd, urged Kaler and his administration to think of the students’ rights.

“We support 1st Amendment rights and implore CWRU leadership to consider this and think about how the decisions they make and the actions they take – especially against those who are abiding by the law – will influence some of the progress we have collectively made as a city. At the same time, we urge individuals to demonstrate peacefully,” Bibb and Todd said.