On Wednesday, Nov. 15, The Hoot interviewed a Brandeis student who played a role in the recent protest held on Friday, Nov. 10 due to the derecognition of the Brandeis chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). The student participated in the protest and coordinated the collection of money to bail out arrestees at the Waltham Police Department. The Hoot interviewed this student about their experiences during the protest, involvement in the release processes, and their overarching sentiments on the situation. This student has chosen to remain anonymous for their safety.
The student emphasized that there was no violence exhibited among the students and participants involved in the protest. They also argued that the protest was escalated by the police when they began “brutalizing and arresting students.”
The student noted that there were a handful of speakers before the violence broke out. After the speakers concluded with their speeches, the police “began to form a line and began shouting something that most of us could not understand over the megaphone.” This sentiment was echoed by others who were present at the protest.
This student noted that later on, the protesters learned that the police were telling them to disperse through the megaphone, but that it was “unintelligible for most students.” The student added that, after this announcement on the megaphone, police began to form a line and push everyone up the stairs alongside the Great Lawn, “indicating [the possibility of a] mass arrest—which was terrifying.” Some students walked away, leaving about half of the students still on the Great Lawn with police. The remaining students began to walk towards the theater lot at this point.
The student mentioned that one of the protesters with a megaphone clearly stated “we are dispersing and we are being peaceful.” The student also noted that protestors had their “hands in the air, stepping away and we were completely peaceful yet terrified.” This student also noted that the police waved a baton in their face, and in the face of a woman holding her newborn child before brutally arresting their peers.
The Hoot asked the student what the arraignment looked like on Monday, Nov. 13. Having attended court to witness the arraignment that day, the student explained that the arraignment began at roughly 10:30 a.m. featuring the seven protesters who were arrested. They all pleaded not guilty, and the student mentioned that they were “sitting next to many of them before they took the stand. It was very sad what was going on. I saw what many students were charged with, and I also saw the circumstances of their arrests and the moments leading up to their arrest—[the allegations made against them were] completely unfair and truly disgusting to see.” Some of the protesters were charged with assault and battery of a police officer, which this student labelled as “completely false.”
The Hoot also asked this student to share their thoughts on the emails that Brandeis’ administration has sent to students surrounding the protest. The student noted that between the events relating to the vigil and the events that occurred on Friday, the university has shown an overall “lack of care for Palestinian students and Palestinian pain and suffering.” The student also emphasized how the emails being sent by the university administration are “not indicative of what went on.” They also feel that the university has “insinuated [that Jewish] students who took place in all of these events are antisemitic or self-hating Jewish individuals.”
As a person of Jewish identity, who is deeply affected by the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust, this student hopes the administration and other students can see how “Jewish values teach us to stand up in the face of genocide.” The student hopes that the administration can have a more centered approach moving forward, focusing on the well-being of all students, no matter their beliefs. The student mentioned this after “personally witnessing a plethora of pro-Israel counter-protest students on the vigil,” recalling seeing some students openly “laughing while the names of the dead were being recalled.”
When asked what they hope the administration will do moving forward, the student specifically called on President Ron Liebowitz to change the atmosphere on campus. They said that “the fact that Ron Liebowitz didn’t make an appearance at a non-political protest about police brutality [on Monday, Nov. 13] on his campus shows a lack of care. I think Ron Liebowitz cares more about his donors than his students.”
The student also added that they wish “the administration cared about my friends whose family members were dying. I wish the administration held accountable students who have … doxxed other [Palestinian] students, the students laughing at names of the dead children and the students who have been engaging in severe Islamophobia all around campus.”
The student concluded calling for the university to condemn all forms of genocidal behavior, violence and the death of children, irrespective of their nationality or background.
The Hoot also interviewed two students who were arrested at Friday’s protest. Those interviews can be found in separate articles. The Hoot’s coverage of the vigil that preceded the protest, and the silent walkout that followed it can also be found in separate articles.