Emerson College: 108 Arrested, 4 Officers Hurt at Pro-Palestine Encampment

Emerson College students set up the camp late Sunday night and remained there until early Thursday morning when Boston police cleared it out.

Emerson College: 108 Arrested, 4 Officers Hurt at Pro-Palestine Encampment

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BOSTON — More than 100 protesters were arrested and four officers were injured early Thursday when Boston Police cleared out a pro-Palestine encampment at Emerson College.

The encampment, located on Boylston Place, was one of several set up by students at Massachusetts colleges to support pro-Palestinian protesters who were arrested at Columbia University earlier this week, WCVB reports. Demonstrators across the country have urged college officials to support a ceasefire in Gaza and to divest from companies and institutions that support Israel.

Emerson students started camping out in the alley off Boylston Street late Sunday night and remained there for three days. On Wednesday, students formed a human barricade, two to three rows deep, blocking both ends of the alley. Students said the goal was to prevent police and Emerson administrators from entering, according to The Globe.

Boston Police warned Wednesday that protesters were violating city ordinances in the alley, which is not solely owned by Emerson College, and that “imminent law enforcement action” could take place. An Emerson student told WCVB that an announcement was made around 1 a.m. Thursday that anyone who remained in the encampment would be arrested. About 30 minutes later, Boston police officers dispersed through the crowd, many wearing protective gear.

“They refused to comply with the police, and within 5-10 minutes the police vans, they pulled up and they started forcing their way into the encampment, and basically taking these students away,” Emerson student Kyle Graff told WBZ.

“They kept being like, ‘This is your last chance. If you are here you will be arrested,’ but they didn’t start saying things like that until after they had already started grabbing and dragging people out. It was not so much a last chance of not being arrested more so, a last chance of not being brutalized,” another student said. “There were people getting thrown down to the ground, arms put behind their back, dragged away, pushed away. Just really however the police could get them out of the alley as quick as possible, without much regard for the safety of those they were removing.”

Boston Police spokesperson Sergeant John Boyle said 108 people were arrested and are expected to be arraigned in Boston Municipal Court. Police said none of the in-custody protesters have reported injuries. One officer suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The other officers’ injuries are minor.

Boston Police and the Public Works Department later removed all tents, signs, and banners and re-opened that section of Boylston Street.

Emerson College Cancels Classes

Classes were canceled at Emerson Thursday, according to an email sent to students Wednesday by President Jay Bernhard.

“Emerson College remains steadfast in its support of community members’ right to peacefully protest. However, we must also emphasize that we cannot prevent the enforcement of Boston city ordinances or Massachusetts state law,” he wrote. “We strongly urge the protestors and their supporters to immediately comply with these laws to avoid legal consequences beyond the College’s authority or control.”

Pro-Palestinian Encampments Set Up at Harvard, MIT, Tufts

The removal of the Emerson encampment happened just hours after pro-Palestinian protesters set up another encampment in Harvard Yard, the oldest part of the Harvard University campus. Harvard is only allowing people with campus IDs into the yard and there are signs indicating tents and tables are not allowed without proper permissions.

Pro-Palestinian encampments have also been set up at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Tufts University. All three camps remain active as of Thursday morning and no arrests have been reported.

Balancing First Amendment Rights with Safety

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a human rights organization, said colleges are “walking a tightrope” as they try to balance First Amendment Rights and campus safety.

“We’ve been urging campus administrators and law enforcement to exercise restraint in interfering with student demonstrations and encampments,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “These are hard times for colleges and universities. Trying to balance the legal requirement that they ensure education free of discrimination at the same time to ensure the free speech rights of students.”

Most schools that are cracking down on demonstrations claim encampments violate university policies and instructions regarding occupying outdoor spaces.

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About the Author

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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One response to “Emerson College: 108 Arrested, 4 Officers Hurt at Pro-Palestine Encampment”

  1. Balgama says:

    As a parent of an Emerson College student, I ask why administrators are not being held responsible. As far as I know this is still America where everyone including our children have a right to speak and protest. This school takes 80k a year to promote their own agenda, and not protect our kids. This whole thing reeks of a fascist entitled agenda.

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