20 Brown University students arrested during sit-in protesting war in Gaza

TWENTY BROWN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS WERE ARRESTED Wednesday during a protest demanding a ceasefire in Gaza for remaining in non-residential campus buildings after normal operating hours, according to the university./ COURTESY BROWN UNIVERSITY

PROVIDENCE – The Providence Police Department on Wednesday arrested 20 Brown University students who were demanding university support for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and that the administration divest from private defense contractors who do business with Israel.

A student group called BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now staged a sit-in Wednesday to pressure Brown University President Christina Paxson and the school’s board to divest though its Brown Corp., “In light of the ongoing genocide occurring in Gaza backed by American aid, weapons, media, politicians, and academic institutions.”

A social media post issued by BJCN had said the group would “not leave University Hall until President Christina Paxson publicly commits to include and support a divestment resolution in the next meeting of the Brown Corporation.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Brett P. Smiley, Patricia Socarras, on Thursday said the 20 students were first detained by the university’s Department of Public Safety before being transferred by the Providence Police on trespassing charges and were released Wednesday evening.

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The administration is facing pressure from other university-affiliated groups.

An online petition released by Students for Justice in Palestine and the Brown Palestine Solidarity Caucus now has more than 1,300 signatures.

The protestors are citing a 2020 report from the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies that recommended divestment from “any company that profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.”

And a letter signed by more than 160 faculty urged the administration to support a ceasefire in the conflict that has now claimed more than 11,000 lives.

University policy states “protest is a necessary and acceptable means of expression within the Brown community” but prohibits “protests or demonstrations that infringe…[or] interfere with the rights of others to make use of or enjoy the facilities.”

University representatives on Thursday said the protests began around noon and were without incident. Spokesperson Brian Clark issued a statement saying administrators gave “every opportunity for a different outcome,” and issued “multiple trespass warnings.”

By 5 p.m., “the students were repeatedly informed that they would face arrest for trespassing after the close of business, given security issues.”

The statement said the students involved now face disciplinary action “up to and including separation from the University for violating policies.”

“At Brown, we recognize our responsibility for being an educational institution that manages challenging discussions in a way that remains true to the fundamental principle of freedom of expression while emphasizing the importance of safety for all community members.”

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com

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