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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Op-ed: Northeastern Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine condemn April 27 arrests of protesters at Northeastern

Margot Murphy
A member of FSJP stands and holds a Palestinian flag along with pro-Palestine protesters on Centennial Common during the encampment April 25. Twenty Northeastern faculty and staff established FSJP and stand in solidarity with Palestine.

To President Joseph E. Aoun, Senior Vice President Mike Armini, Chancellor Ken Henderson, Provost David Madigan, Senior Vice Chancellor Madeleine Estabrook and the Northeastern University community:

We, Northeastern Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine, write to condemn the April 27 arrests of individuals who participated in a peaceful, orderly protest on Centennial Common. We also write to express our grave concern about the false justification for arrests, the harmful weaponizing of antisemitism, the administration’s tactics of intimidation and the endangerment of contract workers hired by the university.

We demand that the university drop all charges against the protesters, address the intimidation and threats of retaliation that occurred and issue a public apology retracting all false allegations of antisemitism. 

Peaceful protests should not be punished

From April 25 to the morning of April 27, students, faculty and staff engaged in a peaceful protest calling for the end of the war in Gaza and for the university to disclose its financial and institutional ties with Israel. Protesters called for the university to divest from those ties and denounce the horrific violence suffered by Palestinians in Gaza. Northeastern students publicly condemned violence against civilians in every form. They called for resistance in the name of peace and justice. They chanted, sang and conducted teach-ins.

In response, Northeastern surrounded students with Northeastern University Police Department, or NUPD, officers, repeatedly threatened protesters with disciplinary action and brought in state and local police, who arrested around 100 people in the early morning of April 27. On April 25, students were surrounded by dozens of officers from the Boston Police Department in full riot gear, a terrifying display of force that was entirely unwarranted by the circumstances.

In a recent statement, Emerson College President Jay Bernhardt declared that Emerson will not pursue either criminal or disciplinary charges against students who participated in a similar encampment last week. 

“It takes immense bravery to speak out and act in support of a cause,” Bernhardt wrote. “As an institution, the College may not take positions on global conflicts, but our overarching goal is for Emerson to be unyielding in our support of our students’ education and their ability to find and express their voices.”

We look to Northeastern to take the same path. We demand that the university refrain from charging students with disciplinary violations or retaliating against faculty or staff members and ask the district attorney’s office to drop all charges against everyone who was arrested.  

 Weaponization of antisemitism

In a statement released on the morning of April 27, Northeastern cited “virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,'” as the justification for dismantling the encampment and arresting the protesters. Those words, however, did not emanate from the encampment. Rather, that terrible phrase was uttered by a counter protester in an attempt to provoke students protesting in solidarity with Palestinians. 

When members of the Northeastern community who were part of the encampment heard it, they attempted to drown it out. This is well-documented by the many journalists and other observers who were present, and has now been widely reported. Contrary to the administration’s offensive insinuations, the members of the Northeastern community who were at the encampment stood against antisemitic chants and rejected such language.

We object in the strongest possible way to the weaponization of antisemitism. Jews in America face serious threats from hate groups. The cynical deployment of false accusations of antisemitism to justify arresting students threatens genuine efforts at constructing a bulwark against such threats. 

Our Jewish community at Northeastern is not made safer by the university treating fake threats as real — just the opposite. Making false accusations of antisemitism to justify arresting protesters heightens the dangers the Jewish community faces by distracting from the real threats. We call on the university to issue a public apology and to correct the record.

Regardless of one’s views about the protesters’ aims, it is a gross misrepresentation to characterize the encampment as organized around principles of antisemitism, violence or bigotry of any kind.

Furthermore, the claim that the encampment was co-opted by “professional organizers,” as the administration stated to The Boston Globe in its April 28 print edition, is patently false. In this mischaracterization, the administration has failed to recognize that protesters welcomed people of all faiths, holding Passover Seders and periods of prayer.

The encampment personified and embodied the university’s motto: to shed light, to speak the truth and to show courage. To obscure all this with false accusations of antisemitism is a dishonest and cowardly smear. It is also grossly irresponsible to put forth such charges, particularly at a time when tensions in our community are running high.

We strongly support the principle that all members of the Northeastern community have a right to be free of harassment and abuse. We believe that concrete, direct acts of harassment and discrimination can and should warrant sanctions, but protesters in the encampment did not violate that principle and should not be sanctioned. None of the multitude of observers — faculty, reporters and legal observers — noted a single instance of the peaceful protesters expressing antisemitism or any other kind of hate.

 Tactics of intimidation

We also condemn the administration’s tactics of intimidation. Numerous faculty and staff have reported interactions with NUPD officers and university administrators that were intrusive and intimidating.

On the morning of April 25, a representative of the senior administration spoke to two faculty members in a highly agitated manner, saying, “You seem to have forgotten where your paycheck comes from.”

On the morning of April 27, just as the police raid was commencing, senior administration ostentatiously filmed staff and faculty, in an apparent act of intimidation, as they were supporting besieged students.

We are shocked that a spokesperson for the university who represents the senior administration would talk to anyone in the Northeastern community in this way and behave in such a manner. 

Threats, ostentatious surveillance and intimidation like this have no place in institutions of higher learning. They are the antithesis of what a university is all about. We call for a public apology for these acts, an investigation into what occurred and the implementation of a comprehensive training program for all university administrators on the principles of academic freedom.

Safety of contract workers

We are also concerned about the university’s exploitation of workers from Olympia Moving & Storage. The university contracted these laborers, almost all of whom were people of color,  to remove the personal effects and tents from the encampment, knowing they would likely be part of a tense and dangerous stand-off situation during the early morning hours of April 27. The workers had no prior training or preparation. The university displayed a complete lack of consideration for the well-being of these workers.

In closing, we call on the university to ask the district attorney’s office to drop all charges against protesters who were arrested April 27 at Northeastern; refrain from charging students with disciplinary violations; issue a public apology and retraction regarding false allegations of antisemitism; address the threats and intimidation that were directed at faculty and staff who were present at the encampment; and refrain from engaging in retaliatory actions against faculty or staff.


Northeastern University Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine

Written by Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine and endorsed by 423 Northeastern affiliates as of May 3

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was initially published without signatories on Monday, April 29, while signatures were being gathered. It was temporarily taken down on April 30 to address concerns regarding attribution and has now been republished with the complete list of those who have signed as of May 3. Signatories continue to be added.

About the Contributor
Margot Murphy, Deputy Photo Editor
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