Dozens arrested following pro-Palestinian student protests, walkouts

Local News

Hundreds of Massachusetts college students participated in pro-Palestinian demonstrations on Wednesday as part of a national day of action.

Police officers arrive to explain that student protesters are trespassing and will be arrested if they don’t choose to leave before giving them a ten minute warning to leave on their own accord without being arrested. Students staged a sit-in outside of the Chancellor’s office at University of Massachusetts Amherst and demanded that the Chancellor end what they called, “UMass Amherst’s ties with war profiteers and call for a ceasefire and end of the blockade on Gaza.” Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Dozens of students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst were arrested Wednesday during a rally and march in support of Palestinians amid violent fighting in the Middle East.

About 500 students turned out for the demonstrations at UMass Amherst as part of a national day of action involving more than 100 campuses across North America. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that a total of 57 UMass students were arrested for trespassing at the Whitmore Administration Building, where protesters staged a sit-in outside of the chancellor’s office. 

According to a Boston Globe report, protesters demanded that the chancellor condemn Israel’s attacks on Gaza and called on the university to support demilitarization and cut ties with defense contractor Raytheon. The company was one of the top six employers for the class of 2021, according to the school’s website.

Protesters held signs with the colors of the Palestinian flag — red, green, white, and black — and chanted, “Long live the intifada,” “Free, free Palestine,” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” according to the Globe’s report.

The demonstration was organized by several student groups, including the UMass Arab Cultural Association, UMass Dissenters, UMass Center for Education Policy and Advocacy, UMass Black Student Union, UMass Students for Justice in Palestine and the UMass Prison Abolition Collective.

Following Wednesday’s protest, UMass Amherst released a statement saying: 

“UMass Amherst recognizes the right of students to demonstrate on university premises, which is consistent with the university’s commitment to free speech and the advocacy of opinions and ideas protected under the First Amendment. Protesters presented their demands as part of their march to the Whitmore Administration Building. The protestors’ specific demands do not align with the university’s publicly stated positions and policies. The Chancellor previously detailed the university’s position on the war in the Middle East in his statement to campus on October 10, 2023. … Students were given multiple verbal warnings that the building was closing at 6 p.m. Multiple individuals who chose not to leave were arrested by UMass Police for criminal trespassing. The arrests were based on the refusal by those arrested to comply with a lawful order by UMass Police to leave the building,” the statement said.

The pro-Palestinian demonstration at UMass Amherst was one of several college rallies to take place across Massachusetts on Wednesday. Students at Clark University in Worcester also participated, with more than 100 students walking out of class and gathering peacefully for an hour.

The Clark demonstrators called for a ceasefire and recognition of Palestine.

“We believe it’s not fair for our money to essentially be going to killing our own people … and we also want them to release a statement acknowledging Palestine and the Palestinians,” Laila El-Samra of the Middle Eastern & North African Student Association told 7 News Boston.

No arrests were reported during the Clark University rally.

Similar demonstrations were also held at UMass Boston, Tufts University, Harvard Divinity School, and Smith College, according to the Globe.