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Protesters interrupt Northwestern football game vs. Iowa

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The protesters held banners calling for the abolition of Northwestern’s police department, among other demands.

Photo by Lia Assimakopoulos

EVANSTON, Ill. — Shortly before the end of the first half of Northwestern’s 17-12 loss to Iowa on Saturday night, the game came to a halt.

Nine protesters stormed the field with banners that read “Abolish NUPD Invest in Black Lives,” “Divest from Death,” “Stop Funding the War on Palestine,” “Board of Trustees meet with us now” and more.

After several minutes in which the protesters were uninterrupted by stadium staff, an individual wearing Iowa gear sprinted onto the field and confronted the protests by trying to rip their signs before sprinting back to the stands and attempting to rally support from other spectators.

Shortly thereafter, stadium staff began to close in on the protesters, at which point they dropped their banners on the field before departing through the south end zone.

After the game, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald told reporters that his “first focus is the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes.”

He continued: “There’s an arena for the athletes, the officials, the coaches and those that are supposed to be in it. Anytime that that gets compromised, it gives you pause, and you have great care and concern. I don’t know if anybody saw, but that’s all I was focused on was trying to keep our guys away. You never know what may happen and how things may happen. So, that’s my focus and my priority.”

Fitzgerald went on to talk about Bryan Heinz — a former Northwestern defensive back who served the United States Military in Afghanistan and was honored by the program this weekend.

Northwestern Athletics had no further comment on the protest. The Northwestern University Police Department directed Inside NU to Northwestern University Media Relations for a comment, which did not respond immediately to requests.

NU Community Not Cops — a student-run organization that has orchestrated prior protests of the university’s police force and has been claiming responsibility for the action while issuing demands on its Twitter account — told Inside NU on Sunday morning that, to the best of its knowledge, none of the protesting individuals were arrested or otherwise confronted by law enforcement following the conclusion of the protest. The organization added that the intention of the protest was to call attention to its demands, which were communicated via tweet shortly after the protest concluded.

An NUCNC organizer told The Daily Northwestern that the protesters were members of multiple student activist groups, including NU Community Not Cops, Students for Justice in Palestine, NU Dissenters, Fossil Free NU and Students Organizing for Labor Rights. The anonymous organizer also said that protesters only left the field once they were threatened with arrest. The aforementioned Daily Northwestern article claimed that some spectators threw objects and yelled slurs at the protestors as they departed.

This is a developing story that will be updated when further details and comments become available.