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 member of Brandeis’ Revolutionary Students Organization (RSO) who delved into the details of their participation in the 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.
Firstly, when asked to recount their experiences at the protest on Friday, the student stated that the peaceful protest started around 3:40 p.m. at Bernstein-Marcus. The protestors quickly moved to the front of the Shapiro Campus Center, on the Great Lawn, where the student stated that “it started with some chanting of chants that were not prohibited by the university, principally ‘free Palestine’ and ‘long live Palestine.’” The student then emphasized that the protesters continued to rally peacefully until its end.
According to an email sent to the Brandeis community earlier in the day on Nov. 10th by Carol Fierke, Stew Uretsky and Andrea Dine, this chant was described as “threatening language” and “hate speech.”
The student added that “we began chanting that because it is our understanding that for Palestine to be free, there is a complete necessity for a free Palestine state with equality for all people in the region.” The student also made clear later in the interview that, while this statement is controversial and could be deemed antisemitic, they feel that it is not a statement against any religion or ethnicity, but rather one that is used to highlight the struggle of Palestine and its search for liberation.
The student also outlined how the rest of the protest progressed. The student recalled that, after the speeches from students and other protesters concluded, the police “decided to initiate what can only be referred to as a police riot. They closed in on the body of protesters as we were retreating and dispersing, and attacked several peaceful protesters, tackling several, and injuring several more.” The student also mentioned that the police “dislocated my knee and held it out of place, as well as groped me by putting their hand into my pants and underwear.”
The student also mentioned hearing from friends and others who attended the protest that the police were “selecting people in the crowd to be arrested.” They recalled that protestors heard police radio chatter that appeared to be singling out certain students as targets for arrest. The student then stated that “it was not a question of wanting people to disperse, it was a question of wanting to enact violence on particular people that they identified in the crowd.”
The student said that several students were put in the back of a police van and taken to the Waltham Police Department. The student noted that “on the way there, the police would speed up fast on the road and slam on the brakes to try to get everybody to slam together. [The police] did that a few times.” The student was then booked in Waltham and waited in a cell before getting bailed out.
When asked about the changes that the university should make going forward, they said that they “demand that the university cease its support for the occupation through its engagement with its economy and institutions. We demand that Brandeis stop supporting and facilitating the spread of racism and Islamophobia on campus through its hateful rhetoric, both in public statements and its refusal to meaningfully hold accountable students who are being racist and Islamophobic against students on this campus.” The student concluded their demands for the university by stating that they “demand that Brandeis ends its repression of pro-Palestinian students on this campus, and reinstate SJP [Brandeis’ chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine].”
Finally, the student mentioned that although they condemn the violence that occurred at Friday’s protest, they wanted to be very clear that the violence faced by protesters against police is incomparable to the violence faced by the Palestinian people. They state that “this violence against protestors was solely for our support of this liberation struggle, [and is] not based on any actions which the university claims are condemnable.”
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.