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Nine demonstrators arrested during pro-Palestine protest

Students chanting and holding up signs for a Pro-Palestine demonstration on Stony Brook University’s campus on Tuesday, March 26. The protest ended with nine demonstrators getting arrested inside the University’s Administration Building. SKY CRABTREE/THE STATESMAN

What started as a relatively standard protest on Stony Brook University’s campus on Tuesday, March 26 ended with nine individuals arrested after a sit-in demonstration at the University’s Administration Building.

Pro-Palestinian protests have been a common occurrence on campus since the Israel-Hamas war broke out last October. But this is the first instance of demonstrators being arrested by law enforcement, namely the University Police Department (UPD).

Like many of the past protests, demonstrators organized by the Stony Brook chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) gathered in front of the Administration Building at 1 p.m. They aimed to protest the ongoing loss of life in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli government, as well as advocate for Stony Brook to completely divest from Israel.

According to Gaza health officials, over 32,000 Palestinians have been killed from the attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) following Oct. 7. There is also mounting concern over a possible humanitarian crisis that could come from the IDF’s planned invasion of Rafah, a city in the southern part of Gaza where many refugees from the war are sheltering.

The protest was notably held on a “Day of Action” organized by SUNY Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) — an organization whose goal is to pressure every school in the SUNY system to divest from Israel.

“Remember, freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor — it must be demanded by the oppressed,” Zubair, an organizer with SJP who requested his last name remain anonymous, told the crowd. “The fight isn’t about how loud you are or what you do but is instead rooted in the messaging, consistency and growing numbers.”

Anna Hayward, a professor at Stony Brook’s School of Social Welfare, also spoke to the crowd. She explained that she was there to speak on behalf of her graduate students, who were scared that publicly supporting Palestine would cost them future opportunities.

“What kind of environment have we created for students, for graduate students, at Stony Brook University, if they do not feel safe speaking out,” Hayward said. “1.1 million Palestinians are currently starving to death, and our graduate students have asked me to represent them. They are afraid for their future. They are afraid for their future at this school.”

Sam Cornetta, a senior art major and an organizer with Starbucks Workers United, also spoke at the protest about the suffering of Palestinians and the roadblocks faced by the union they work for.

After Starbucks Workers United made a pro-Palestine statement online, Starbucks sued the union, alleging copyright infringement for having a name and logo similar to Starbucks. Starbucks Workers United then countersued, alleging that Starbucks defamed the union by suggesting they support terrorism.

“They seek to silence you,” Cornetta told the crowd. “Even Stony Brook University served SUNY BDS with a cease and desist. Stony Brook, I leave you with this: get organized and stay organized. Your community is more important than ever.”

Cornetta is referring to an incident that took place in late February when SUNY lawyers served SUNY BDS a cease and desist letter accusing the group of copyright infringement after the New York Post inquired to the New York State government about the organization.

After the speeches, protesters chanted and marched in a loop around campus for about an hour and a half. Following that stage of the protest, approximately 30 demonstrators staged a sit-in protest in the administration building, according to an email sent out following the protest by Rick Gatteau, Stony Brook’s vice president for Student Affairs.

Gatteau alleged in the email that SJP had consulted with student affairs staff before the demonstration to plan out the route the protesters would take, as is standard procedure. He wrote that the demonstrators who entered the administration building had broken off from the procedure previously established by Student Affairs staff and SJP.

“In advance of this demonstration, Student Affairs staff consulted with the student organizers as is our normal practice, advising them of their rights and responsibilities in accordance with our established policies,” Gatteau wrote. “This included an agreed upon walking route. Near the end of the march, approximately thirty students who were part of the march deviated from the route by entering the administration building.”

Gatteau also wrote that after entering the administration building, protestors demonstrated by making noise using chanting, a drum and a bullhorn. While most of the students left after being warned by University officials that the disruption would lead to arrests, nine demonstrators remained and were subsequently arrested.

Stony Brook students getting arrested at a sit-in inside PHOTO COURTESY OF IG @glorias_gifted_gems

However, a statement posted by SJP on Instagram presents a slightly different version of events. According to the post, SJP chose to enter the building and refused to leave until they were provided a meeting with the University’s Board of Trustees to advocate for divestment from Israel.

“Immediately, UPD and the administration became aggressive, escalating the situation,” the statement read. “Administration spoke under the guidance of protecting the students and acting in our supposed best interest. They repeatedly warned students of consequences while ignoring our demands and characterizing our peaceful sit-in as a disruptive protest.”

SJP alleged that they were arrested without having their Miranda rights read to them, and claimed one of the students arrested was mocked and misgendered by UPD officers while in custody. The Statesman could not independently verify these claims.

Following the students’ arrest, several Stony Brook campus organizations spoke out against the school’s administration and demanded that the charges against the arrested students be dropped. Most notably, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) posted on its Instagram page advocating for the charges to be dismissed.

In an interview, USG President Devin Lobosco said the organization’s executive board felt the need to put out a statement after internal discussion.

“We spoke about it as an executive council; we acknowledged the fact that a lot of the protesters were non-violent, though disruptive,” Lobosco said. “The USG executive council felt very strongly [that] a student’s ability to protest nonviolently should not impact their future, their arrest record.”

Following the demonstration, SJP posted that another protest will be held at the administration building at 1 p.m. on April 3.

“We refuse to cower in fear of our administration’s abuse,” SJP’s statement read. “Furthermore, we remain steadfast in our demands that all charges against the arrested protesters be dropped, [SJP] be allowed to meet with the Board of Trustees to discuss divestment, and SUNY as an institution divest from the genocidal ethnostate and cut ties with all companies that profit from this campaign to eradicate the Palestinian people.”

Correction: This article previously reported that the arrested students not having their Miranda rights right to them upon being taken into custody was illegal. This is false. Miranda warnings are only required when police officers are questioning someone related to a criminal investigation or arrest. All individuals were charged with disorderly conduct, which is not a charge that would require Miranda warnings to be read to those being arrested.

Correction: This article previously reported that nine students were arrested. In actuality, those arrested included seven students, one alumnus, and one community member.

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About the Contributor
Sky Crabtree
Sky Crabtree, Assistant News Editor
Sky Crabtree is an Assistant News Editor for The Statesman and a sophomore studying journalism and political science. He joined the paper in the spring of 2023 as a news reporter and was promoted at the end of the same semester. Outside of The Statesman, he works as a news intern for WSHU Public Radio and hosts "The Political Corner," a segment on the Stony Brook Media Group's news show.
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  • B

    Brian HelmanMar 29, 2024 at 7:17 pm

    Pro-P’s need to read up on the Horseshoe Theory. They’re a gap-jump from being MAGA insurrectionists. If they truly want to end this war, call for an immediate release of the hostages and for Hamas to surrender and accept a ceasefire. They have been offered 7 and rejected all – because they don’t care about the people of Gaza. This is Game Theory 101.

    Class of ’88

    Reply
  • E

    Ethan EskenaziMar 28, 2024 at 7:11 pm

    “SJP alleged that they were arrested without having their Miranda rights read to them, which is illegal.”
    No, that is not illegal. Police officers are not required to read Miranda rights during an arrest. They are only required to read Miranda rights if, later on, they decide to interrogate the suspect.

    We need to make one thing clear: The SUNY system, if they have any credibility, will NOT divest from Israel, nor should they even seriously consider such a proposal. The BDS movement seeks to incorrectly paint Israel as an oppressive pariah state, and SJP’s harassment should not stop the university from doing the right thing and continuing to work with Israeli organizations and institutions in all ways possible.

    Also, it is quite funny to see this group refer to Israel as an ethnostate. You know, 30% of Israel’s population is non-Jewish, and they have equal rights and a better quality of life than almost any resident of any Arab-majority country. This is proven by the fact that the majority of Israeli Arabs say that, if there is a two-state solution in the future, they would prefer to remain Israeli citizens rather than become Palestinian citizens. Meanwhile, many Arab countries (as well as the Palestinian Territories) are ethnostates which have pushed out virtually all non-Muslim religious groups, and subjugate the ones who remain. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, once said: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Jewish Israeli on our lands.” That sounds like an ethnostate to me.

    Once again, the Pro-Palestine movement proves themselves to be the most pathetic group of whiny losers on Earth. Constantly ignoring facts, causing disruption, outright lying, and refusing to compromise. The SBU community would be better off by refusing to entertain the ridiculous demands of this fringe, hateful group.

    Reply
    • H

      Hélène Volat Librarian EmeritaApr 17, 2024 at 5:41 pm

      Except for parroting the hasbara 101 for beginners you have nothing to say but launch insults. And spare us your “facts” and learn from your own history! Since 9/11, Israel has been able to portray the Palestinian conflict as an ideological battle between the West and Islam rather than a battle for land and civil rights.
      Today, most Israelis have become far right extremists in a country which has become the first Jewish fascist country in world history. The majority would like nothing more than to commit ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and annex all the land. The only thing holding them back is world opinion. That is why movements such as BDS is important.

      Reply
  • J

    JBMar 27, 2024 at 8:21 pm

    Despicable that students were arrested. Unecessary, says an SBU alumn and former SBU administrator responsible for freedom of expression.

    Reply