NYU Faculty Member Who Spent Night in Jail After NYPD Raided Pro-Palestine Encampment: ‘I Will Do It Again’

Students and faculty gathered in Washington Square Park for a walk-out Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after university officials told the cops to clear out the "very peaceful" campus protest.

NYU Faculty Member Who Spent Night in Jail After NYPD Raided Pro-Palestine Encampment: ‘I Will Do It Again’
New York University students and faculty members in Washington Square Park on Tuesday, April 23. Photo: Shutterstock

On Tuesday afternoon, well over one hundred people gathered in Garibaldi Plaza in Washington Square Park for a demonstration and town hall organized by two New York University campus groups, NYU Palestine Solidarity Coalition and NYU Alumni for Palestine.

Less than 24 hours earlier, 140 students and faculty were arrested outside New York University’s Stern School of Business after constructing an encampment in solidarity with Palestinian liberation and student protesters at Columbia University, and to demand that NYU divest from any companies that may be profiting from Israel’s war on Gaza. On Thursday, Columbia students faced over 100 arrests after erecting a Pro-Palestine encampment a week ago. Similar encampments, where students and faculty are gathering for protests, teach-ins, and prayer, and demanding their schools divest from companies with Israeli ties, have also sprung up at The New School in NYC, as well as the University of Michigan and Yale University, where over 45 student protesters were arrested on Monday and charged with trespassing.

At Garibaldi Plaza, emotions were charged. Demonstrators chanted “The students united, will never be defeated” and “We will not rest until you divest,” before the group representatives (many of whom chose not to identify themselves to protect their safety) told the crowd they sought to “reclaim their narrative” after 120 students and faculty members were jailed overnight (mostly for trespassing) following what they assert was a peaceful campus protest.

According to multiple people who witnessed Monday night’s raid and spoke on Tuesday, scores of NYPD arrived in full riot gear as Muslim students were in the middle of a prayer. One professor who was arrested and spent the night in detainment (and who did not identify himself) addressed the crowd and said he had felt safe enough to bring his five-year-old daughter.

“I didn’t expect to be in a jail cell with my students last night, but I will do it again,” he said. A second professor, who identified herself only as “Drew,” also told the crowd she’d spent the night in jail and that she and other faculty were “so proud” of their students.

One graduate student who helped organize the camp, which was set up in Gould Plaza Monday morning, told Jezebel that before the NYPD arrived on the scene, the encampment was “very peaceful,” “full of joy,” and “not disorderly in any way.” The organizer, who preferred not to be identified for her safety, said that around 3 p.m., the NYPD began issuing warnings and that unspecified “consequences” would be imminent if the encampment wasn’t immediately deconstructed. According to Washington Square News, NYU’s independent student newspaper, the head of Campus Safety told protesters to leave by 4 p.m., the NYPD was then authorized by the university to raid the encampment at 8:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, many recalled how, as more NYPD officers arrived on the scene, faculty members moved to make a human chain around the students. “A bunch of us were moved to tears,” the organizer told Jezebel. “It was really emotional.” Even still, several videos shared by reporters and students on social media show the NYPD tackling protestors to the ground, while some students were reportedly pepper-sprayed during the raid. “The violence of the NYPD was unprecedented,” another organizer told the crowd during Tuesday’s demonstration.

In a university-wide email sent Monday night and reviewed by Jezebel, NYU president, Linda Mills, wrote: “While academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas are and always will be bedrock principles on NYU’s campus, hate, disruption and intimidation can never be countenanced.” Later in the note, she claimed she’d “learned that there were intimidating chants and several antisemitic incidents reported.” Those present, however, refuted this.

“The allegations of threats to students’ safety are baseless,” one organizer told the crowd. “The only threat to students’ safety was the NYPD.”

Later during Tuesday’s protest, representatives from the coalition read four demands they plan to hold the university to, including protecting free speech and a complete academic boycott of Israel where NYU has a campus in Tel Aviv.

“We’re in a university space where we’re constantly studying ideas of orientalism and anti-colonialism and the expectation that we just witness mass graves and children’s bodies and don’t make a connection is bizarre,” the organizer told Jezebel. “A space like a university nurtures resistance and that’s what we were following.”

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