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Breaking: 29 demonstrators arrested during encampment protest

Earlier this morning, Stony Brook University police, state troopers, Suffolk police and a mobile field unit arrested 29 people including students, faculty members and community members participating in a Gaza solidarity encampment protest organized by Sb4Palestine. 

[A]t approximately 12:15 am, 29 people were arrested including students, faculty members and others from outside our campus community for violating various legal statutes and university policies,” Stony Brook University Officials wrote in an email to The Statesman.

President Maurie McInnis specified in a statement sent to the campus community that 22 students, two faculty members and five others were arrested. 

Students who have been organizing this demonstration on the Staller Steps since April 30 were warned by the University to disperse and leave the area by 11 p.m. on May 1, or else be subject to disciplinary action and arrest. 

Protesters remained on the steps, even setting up five tents and forming a human chain to protect other demonstrators from the police, who had previously communicated that erecting structures would lead to consequences for those involved.

At around 5 p.m. three student organizers were suspended and told to leave the premises; however, they did not. Around 7 p.m. Stony Brook administrators offered to meet with organizers of Sb4Palestine to discuss their demands on the condition that they leave the steps by 11 p.m. 

Sb4Palestine rejected their offer and sent back their own, which was in turn rejected by the administration.  

“Taking every opportunity to de-escalate growing tensions, at 7pm Wednesday, administrators offered to schedule a meeting with President McInnis and Justin Fincher, Executive Director of the Stony Brook Foundation, to discuss their demands in exchange for demonstrators departing the Staller steps by 11pm. The students rejected the offer,” University officials said in an email to The Statesman.

Vice President for Student Affairs Rick Gatteau then approached the demonstrators with a megaphone and explained that they had half an hour to leave the area before cops would begin arresting protestors.

“Occupying a public space like the Staller Steps that other members of the community have reserved and unfairly denying them the very thing they demand for themselves, the right to be heard, is unacceptable,” University officials said.

At around 11 p.m., police warned protesters to move multiple times before they would be arrested, and also warned that any property or belongings left behind would be considered abandoned and seized. Police also warned reporters that they had to remain near the fountain in front of the Humanities building, because they could not guarantee that they would not arrest the media as well. 

At approximately 11:30 p.m., the police retreated without making any arrests. Protesters celebrated and put the tents back up. However, at around 11:48 p.m., police chased protestors off of the Staller Center balcony directly overlooking the Staller Steps, threatening arrest. One of the protestors shouted “f*** you” to the officers in response.

MARIAM GUIRGIS/THE STATESMAN

In her statement, McInnis wrote, “The police acted professionally and with restraint.”

She also wrote that protesters “grew increasingly hostile toward other students who were not participating in the demonstration.” 

Officers started clearing the area that is directly surrounding the Staller Steps by threatening arrest to those who remained. While demonstrators continued shouting at law enforcement, those reporting on and observing the event were walked backward and even shoved by police officers.  

Around midnight, the first of the arrests were made — some more forcibly than others. One protester was tackled to the ground by four police officers who kept her on the ground until they made sure she was secure. 

VIDEO COURTESY OF SBU STUDENT

Officers started encasing the Staller Steps using caution tape to keep people from entering, but some protesters ripped them down. There were still protesters standing inside where the caution tape was chanting, “disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not stop.” 

Soon after, protesters locked arms and formed a human chain near where the arrests had taken place.

A couple of moments later, officers started moving into where they had originally told people to stand if they did not want to be involved in the arrests. Officers started pushing people to move in order to form a blockade around what was going on.

Eventually, people were pushed back to the Academic Mall and the Staller Center For the Arts, as well as all walkways around it, were all taped off. 

State troopers and officers lined up the arrested protesters and led them down the steps towards the fountain near the Charles B. Wang Center in order to put them into vans and buses and drive them to Riverhead, N.Y. to process them.

The protesters that were left remained in the Academic Mall — blocked and barricaded from the side of campus that connects to the Staller Steps —  still chanting and yelling at the officers.  

Both McInnis and University officials wrote, “When necessary we will take appropriate action to enforce these rules to ensure that all campus voices can be heard, not just the loudest or the most disruptive.”

This is a developing story. The Statesman will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that an officer shouted “f*** you” to student protestors. Rather, it was a student that shouted “f*** you” to the officers, as shown in the provided video footage.

EDITED BY BRITTNEY DIETZ/THE STATESMAN
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About the Contributors
Mariam Guirgis
Mariam Guirgis, Assistant News Editor
Mariam is an Assistant News Editor at The Statesman. She is a second-year journalism minoring in political science. When she's not editing news articles, she is deeply involved with her Church community, planning events and hanging out with friends.
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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Comments (4)

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  • D

    Don DobeshMay 9, 2024 at 9:54 am

    I graduated class of 81. This saddens me to see these alleged students promoting the hatred they have for Israel and Jews. Not the school I remember

    Reply
  • H

    H JiangMay 3, 2024 at 12:24 am

    As an alumni, I am deeply saddened by this event. But I don’t think students are supporting terrorists. They are following the students protesting earlier at Columbia and NYU. As shown in their slogan, they would like to see disclose and divest of school fund in with Israel military research. While these protests are against Israel military actions, it is a slippery slope to say students support terrorists. Israel is in war with Hamas. But radical actions against civilians in Gaza should still be condemned.

    Reply
  • A

    Adele MilchMay 2, 2024 at 3:06 pm

    Good story about the protests. I think I represent the civilian Stony Brook community in congratulating President McInnis in taking action swiftly before things escalated. I have no idea why students would want to support terrorists. And why are they not studying for finals?

    Reply
    • H

      Hélène Volat Librarian EmeritaMay 5, 2024 at 10:14 pm

      Nothing—absolutely nothing—can ever justify Israel’s reaction to the attack they suffered at the hands of Hamas, terrible as it was. They have stepped beyond the bounds of humanity, by slaughtering 34500 civilians including 14500 children and anyone who supports or tries to justify what they have done and continue to do has lost all sense of moral compass. I applaud and support these students, they are the moral conscience of this country and hopefully its future.

      Reply