Washington University Pro Palestine Protest: 80 Arrested

Washington University Pro Palestine Protest: 80 Arrested

Overview of the Protest at Washington University

ST. LOUIS — Dozens of pro-Palestine protesters faced arrest as they attempted to establish encampments on Saturday at Washington University’s campus. This incident underscores the recent tension between university administrators and demonstrators affecting academic institutions nationwide. The protesters demanded an end to the war in Gaza and urged the university to sever all ties with Boeing Co., a key military supplier to Israel and a prominent employer in the St. Louis region.

Key Arrests and University’s Response

Among those detained, police included Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, as reported by Aldermanic President Megan Green, a participant in the protest. Washington University later announced that it had arrested over 80 individuals who refused to vacate the campus. These individuals might face charges of trespassing, with some also potentially charged with resisting arrest and assault due to injuries to police officers.

“It quickly became clear through the words and actions of this group that they did not have good intentions for our campus and that this demonstration had the potential to spiral out of control and become dangerous,” Washington University stated.

Protest Dynamics and Police Actions

By 8:40 p.m., authorities had cleared the campus, escorting about 25 people who weren’t arrested to the sidewalk along Skinker Boulevard. Most of those arrested complied with police orders, with officers leading most protesters away without further incidents.

After the encampment clearance, one officer, using a bullhorn, informed those still present and not affiliated with the university that they needed to leave. Despite identifying herself as an adjunct professor, Megan Green was also asked to leave.

“Are you leaving?” the officer asked through the bullhorn after issuing a dispersal order.

Green described the police’s approach to the protest, initially “jovial” and “loving,” as becoming confrontational once the arrests began. Despite efforts by Green, Stein, and St. Louis Alderwoman Alisha Sonnier to negotiate with university administrators for permission to continue the protest peacefully, they met resistance from the police.

The Protest’s Inception and Evolution

Activists initiated the encampment following similar actions at Columbia University and other institutions across the United States. “It’s the morally right thing to do,” said retired St. Louis County resident Ed “Bongo” Herhold, 70, active in several protests since the war began in October. “It’s humanity.”

“They’re making the same mistakes they made 50 years ago,” Herhold noted, criticizing the university’s earlier arrests this month as akin to responses against Vietnam War demonstrators, which he called “totally uncalled for.”

Protest Continuation and Chants

After initial warnings from the police, the protesters relocated their tents to Tisch Park, continuing their demonstration between Brookings Hall and Skinker Boulevard. Police monitored the protesters closely as they moved to the new site. They raised their voices, chanting, “WashU you can’t hide, you support a genocide” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” They also referenced the Intifada, alluding to past Palestinian uprisings.

International Reactions and Legal Implications

The International Court of Justice, presented with overwhelming evidence, has accused Israel of committing acts of genocide, an allegation Israel vehemently rejects and has requested the court dismiss. The phrase “from the river to the sea” is widely viewed as a call for the elimination of the state of Israel, which some argue is used by some to suppress discussion and alter the conflict’s historical narrative.

Controversial Statements and University Climate

Washington University’s connections reflect a strong Zionist stance among many faculty members, influencing numerous students and alumni. For instance, Seth Crosby, an assistant professor of genetics, expressed on X, formerly Twitter, that the Israeli attacks were “a much-needed cleansing, yes, but not an ethnic one. Israel is not targeting humans.” He was responding to another post accusing Israel of engaging in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Crosby also controversially added that “rabid animals should be put down,” referring to another contentious aspect of the dialogue surrounding the conflict.

Local Perspectives on Free Speech and Societal Loyalties

Richard Buthod, a resident of nearby Ferguson, remarked that Washington University took “the easiest route” by arresting protestors rather than embracing the principles of free speech. He drew parallels with his experiences during the Ferguson unrest, noting how responses to protests often reflect deeper societal and systemic biases.

“All the things the St. Louis cops did to us in Ferguson, the Palestinians knew from their own experience how best to respond,” said Buthod, emphasizing a shared understanding of oppression among protestors.

Insights on St. Louis Dynamics

Living in St. Louis has taught me that it’s a very cliquey city. Individuals often display excessive loyalty to their corporations, despite the detrimental impacts these actions may have on society. Money talks loudly here, and if protecting various ideologies, turning a blind eye, or throwing people under the bus secures someone’s interests, then those in powerful or privileged positions are all too willing to comply. Many who condemn the protests do so largely to protect their high-paying jobs and bonuses. For these individuals, war is effectively the American dream.

Closing Remarks from Stakeholders

Jordan Kadosh, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Heartland, criticized the protest’s terminology:

“Protests that use these terms don’t alleviate suffering nor bring about lasting peace in a global setting,” Kadosh commented, pointing out that the protests divert attention from the ongoing genocide where now 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have perished.

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