Pro-Palestinian student protest at Northeastern University in Boston cleared by police

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BOSTON – Police cleared pro-Palestinian protesters from an encampment at Northeastern University in Boston on Saturday.

Dozens of protesters have been at the tent encampment on Centennial Common since Thursday.

Pro-Palestinian protesters detained by police

On Saturday, there was a heavy police beginning around 6 a.m. while students were standing with linked arms.

Around 7 a.m., police moved in and began detaining students with zip ties. They were sat on the ground, then walked away from the area one at a time.

A spokesperson for Northeastern said about 100 people were detained by police. 

“With hundreds of police officers in full riot gear, and destroyed the encampment, arrested students and intimidate everybody,” Northeastern University sophomore Alina Caudle said.     

Any students who produced a university ID were released. Students will face potential discipline from Northeastern, but not legal action.

“Those who refused to disclose their affiliation were arrested,” the university said.

“What the university said is “If you show your ID you will not be arrested, but you will face university disciplinary action,’ which could include suspension, expulsion, loss of a scholarship,” Caudle said.  

Massachusetts State Police said 102 who refused to disperse were arrested and will be charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. The protesters were cleared by police from Northeastern, state police, Boston Police, and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.

“The State Police are committed to protecting the lawful exercise of people’s rights of assembly and free speech in a safe and secure manner, as well as to protecting safety and property all involved parties,” Massachusetts State Police said in a statement.

Northeastern says protesters used “virulent antisemitic slurs”

Renata Nyul, vice president for communications at Northeastern, issued a statement saying the protests have included “virulent antisemitic slurs.” 

Nyul said the protest began as a student demonstration, but has been “infiltrated by professional organizers” who are not affiliated with the school.

“Earlier this morning the Northeastern University Police Department (NUPD) — in cooperation with local law enforcement partners — began clearing an unauthorized encampment on the university’s Boston campus,” Nyul said. “What began as a student demonstration two days ago, was infiltrated by professional organizers with no affiliation to Northeastern. Last night, the use of virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,’ crossed the line. We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus.”

The protesters who were part of the encampment disagree with Northeastern’s recollection of the event.

“Individuals in the encampment were making hate speech claims such as  ‘Kill the Jews,’ and there is literally video evidence of pro-Israeli anti-protesters holding their flags and saying ‘Kill the Jews’ to incite this violence,” Northeastern University senior Sarah Barber said.  

But Jewish students say the last few days have been challenging with the encampment.

“I am usually all for free speech, but when that free speech violates the university code of conduct, when you are calling for things that are outright antisemitic, that really have nothing to do with Palestine at all, that’s when it loses a place on campus. I’m glad Northeastern University took action,” Jake Friedman said. 

The school said that by 11:30 a.m., the quad in Centennial Common was “fully secured” and all campus operations returned to normal.

College protests in Massachusetts

Other student protests inspired by Columbia University this week have been formed on Massachusetts college campuses. They include Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyHarvard University and Tufts University.   

Boston police broke up an Emerson College encampment on Thursday, arresting 108 people. 

College students have been protesting against Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza around the country as well. The groups say they are demanding schools cut financial ties to Israel and divest from companies they say are enabling the conflict.

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