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Students, UNR officials disagree on police presence at pro-Palestine protest

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Anonymous members of the advocacy group Palestine Solidarity Reno allege an armed sniper took position on a balcony overlooking a pro-Palestine protest Friday, April 26 at the University of Nevada, Reno campus. University officials said that’s not the case.

“On April 26th, students and community members came together to protest UNR’s investments and complicity in the genocide of Palestinians,” the group wrote in a post on Instagram. “We were met with snipers. Institutions will not save or protect us — we will.”

The post was accompanied by an image of a man in camouflage crouched on a balcony of the Joe Crowley Student Union building overlooking the grassy area below, which has been the site of recent student protests. Leaning in a corner to his right is what appears to be a rifle.

UNR officials did not deny the law enforcement officer had a rifle.

“There were no weapons pointed at anyone during the event,” said UNR spokesperson Jessica Lozada, adding that there were no snipers deployed on campus during the protest. Instead, she said, there were “operational posts” set up by campus police as part of its “community-oriented policing principles.” 

“In this case, a monocular telescope was used for observation,” she said. She added that UNR police don’t wear camo, but that Washoe County Sheriff’s deputies support campus security at times. UNR has partnerships with Reno and Sparks police departments as well.

Lozada said the posts are used to gather intelligence during large gatherings on campus. 

“Given tragic events such as the Route 91 shooting in Las Vegas and the recent UNLV shootings in December, our approach to monitoring campus activities is informed by a heightened awareness of potential threats and risks,” she said. “As such, [University Police Department Northern Command] employs various strategies, including observation positions, to ensure the safety and security of our campus community while remaining vigilant against potential threats.”

Members of the protest group said the presence of what appeared to be snipers had the opposite effect of making them feel safe.

“What image does this give to current and prospective students about their safety on campus,” protest organizers asked. “How can UNR claim to care about student safety while having strangers point deadly weapons at us?” 

The anonymous group members also alleged that middle and high school students participating in the Reno Jazz Festival inside the student union building “reported seeing men in camo barge into the student union theaters while huddled up and hiding weapons.”

The incident comes after a weekend of protests around the country on college campuses. Those protests have led to hundreds of arrests of students and faculty members who are protesting what they call overly aggressive and genocidal activities by the Israeli government against Palestinian citizens.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have died in the war.

Heavy police presence and what appear to be rooftop snipers were also reported at Ohio State University and University of Indiana Bloomingdale. Fact-checking website Snopes confirmed both instances, revealing that Ohio State’s student-run newspaper published an update to its original story reporting that once arrests began on the green below the observers switched from spotting scopes to rifles.

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.

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