Condemning the UMass Response to Student Protest Published on May 10, 2024

written by a current UMASS Student

On April 29th, 2024, students of the University of Massachusetts Amherst started their liberation encampment on UMass campus, following the wave of protests and similar encampments on college campuses across the nation, calling attention to the ongoing genocide in Gaza by the israeli forces. UMass Amherst encampment, the latest in a series of protests arranged by various student organizations since last semester, calls for the University to boycott, divest, and sanction the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Later in the afternoon, newly inaugurated university chancellor Javier Reyes issued a statement, stipulating the anti-genocide protests had violated campus rules and disrupted university celebrations for their Founder’s Day. In his statement, he states “The presence of unauthorized structures, including tents, is not protected speech”, which contrasts the school’s previous responses to campouts and similar protests, including those held by the UMass Radical Student Alliance (URSA) last year regarding the university’s housing crisis. which was notably free from threats of police and administration intervention.

On Tuesday May 7th, 2024, the UMass encampment was set up again following dismantlement the week before after threats of police force and academic repercussions. Peaceful demonstrations including speeches from UMass Jewish Voices of Peace, UMass Students for Justice in Palestine, university faculty, and student organizers took p;ace, all speaking against the murders of people in Gaza, and further educating listeners regarding the difference of condemnation of genocide vs antisemitism.

The atmosphere of the peaceful demonstrations changed in the evening as police forces in riot gear marched into campus in the midst of Chancellor Reyes’ alleged negotiations with protest organizers regarding their requests for university divestment. The faculty were the first to be arrested, along with “outside agitators”- one being a 11-year-old protestor. Videos circulated of more arrests utilizing violent force, including the flashing white lights of tasers and the restraining of single students by several riot-gear-clad police forces.

These scenes of police presence and consequent brutality on peaceful student protestors is reminiscent of their brutality during the 1960-era Vietnam War protests- some of which ended in the injuries and deaths of the students. 130+ protestors were mass arrested, including faculty, students, and local residents- all of whom currently await their charges.

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