Over the past few days, The Hoot has conducted interviews with two of the students who were arrested by Waltham Police during Friday, Nov. 10’s protest. One of the arrested students shared their experiences during and after the protest, shedding light on the events that transpired.
On Monday, Nov. 13, The Hoot interviewed a Palestinian student who delved into the details of their participation in Friday’s protest. The discussion touched on the dynamics of the protest, interactions with law enforcement and the student’s aspirations for institutional changes within the university. This student has chosen to remain anonymous for their safety.
The student first spoke on Friday’s events and stated that the protest was peaceful and it involved people simply talking about their personal experiences with the conflict. They stated that “at least that was why I was there because I just found out yesterday that 30 of my family members were killed in Gaza. I didn’t really know them and never had the opportunity to meet them, but it’s just sad to think about.” The student went on to emphasize that while there were occasional chants for the different speakers, the protest was “peaceful.”
When asked to discuss their recallings of how incidents with law enforcement played out, the student stated that, “I think it got violent sometime when I went to use the restroom. I went inside, used the restroom and I came back and all I remember seeing was a police car driving onto the [Shapiro Campus Center] lawn. It was a black SUV that didn’t say anything about the police, so it was very hard to recognize.” The student then mentioned that the police started saying something on the megaphone, but nobody could hear it. This is when a lot of this student’s friends and other protesters gave this student the opportunity to speak. The student added that they were “nervous because there was [sic] a lot of people and a lot of attention, and I was scared of something happening, and look, something bad did end up happening.”
The student then notes that they were forced back on the lawn, towards the steps near the Great Lawn because police were telling them if they did not leave, that they were going to forcefully move protesters. While this occurred, the student held a “ceasefire now” sign that was apparently ripped apart by one of the police officers. After the student was getting pushed back along with the other protesters, they recall seeing one of their friends get tackled by four or five police officers. The protester was “not doing anything other than holding a megaphone.” The student recalls their friend “screaming for help and unfortunately having their knee dislocated by the police in the process [of being arrested].”
The student then called on the administration and other students to understand the pain that was endured by protesters both mentally and physically. The student states that they “now have trouble sleeping because my back is hurt. I haven’t hurt myself like this since I played basketball around seven years ago.” The student emphasized that they were “just trying the advocate for the genocide that Brandeis is essentially supporting, but clearly don’t care about their Arab, Palestinian or Muslim students.”
Another major issue that stemmed from the protest has been the toll it has taken on students’ ability to continue completing their schoolwork and other commitments on campus. The student noted that, “I’m taking six classes on top of all of this stuff, plus getting arrested. It’s just a lot. I’m trying to keep myself together and finish everything that I can, but I am struggling and trying to reach out to people.” However, they noted that their professors and other faculty have been very supportive of their needs during this time. “Even when I went to court on Monday, there were a lot of Brandeis professors that I had never even met, and they were just making sure that I felt safe and had support.”
The student mentioned that their experience with Waltham Police was “very brutal.” They felt as if they were “being targeted and discriminated against because of my skin color.” The student felt through the entire process that police were simply attempting to show their power over protesters. “Even though I didn’t do anything wrong, just because I was arrested they treated me like a criminal no matter what. I still have a mark from the handcuff. I remember the second they took it off, my hands were red and swollen. I told them multiple times that they put the handcuffs on too tight and they were cutting into my skin, but they told me I was fine.”
They also shared that Waltham Police forced them to “take off my pants and literally have to be in jail in my underwear.” They also recalled that when police drove protesters to the jail, they would often do “brake checks” without putting seat belts on the protesters. This would cause the protesters to clash into each other. The student mentioned that “it’s funny that they treat us like animals and that is what the Israeli government is calling my people. They are calling them animals and now I’m actually being treated like an animal even though I’m thousands of miles away.”
The Hoot also asked the student how they felt about Brandeis’ chapter of SJP being derecognized by the university. For context, Brandeis’ SJP chapter was derecognized by the university just before their scheduled vigil on Monday, Nov. 6 for Palestinian lives lost. The student added that they “think it’s ridiculous. I had actually just joined SJP and was about to be on the E-board and help plan events because of what has been happening recently. It just made me really angry at Brandeis—they sent us an email 10 minutes before their offices closed.” The student then questioned why Brandeis did not allow them to hold a vigil when there “have been one or two Israeli vigils for students.” They didn’t understand why they weren’t able to mourn and grieve, and questioned why Brandeis decided to shut it down at the time they did.
They also expressed their support for the rest of the Brandeis campus that is currently grieving the lives lost of so many individuals and loved ones. The student emphasized that “I guarantee you, knowing all students at Brandeis, we are not going to support Hamas because we live with our Jewish brothers and sisters here on campus. It would not make sense for us to be supporting any type of murder of any people. Why would we want to murder Israelis? It doesn’t make sense.”
Finally, The Hoot asked how the student hoped the university changes their actions moving forward. The student began by stating why they came to Brandeis in the first place, and that was its motto of “truth unto its innermost parts” and the claim that Brandeis is a social justice institution.
“They need to know that if they are going to accept students of all colors, races, religions and ethnicities, they need to be willing to be open to listening to the perspectives of these people,” the student added. “Because we are the minority on this campus, our voices are much smaller.” The student emphasized the need for Brandeis to create change on a smaller scale, as it is easier to make changes on an institutional level rather than at a national level.
Finally, they concluded with a statement directed toward the university in hopes of a change in their treatment toward their students: “I think what they did on Friday, by suppressing our voices, was completely against their social justice narrative. It was a shame that they allowed the police to get that violent. I feel like Brandeis is being really selfish and not caring about their students, when one of the most important things that universities should focus on is their students and the wellbeing of everyone on campus. Without students, without faculty, there is no university.”
The Hoot interviewed another student who was arrested at Friday’s protest and one student who attended the protest but was not arrested. 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.