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The Mass Media

Campus activism heats up: UMass Amherst student protestors arrested

Student groups across campuses have been protesting and demonstrating, demanding the administration take a strong position on the Israel-Palestine conflict. On Wednesday, Oct. 25, around 500 students marched down the UMass Amherst campus, condemning Israel’s actions and objecting to the university’s statement on the conflict, according to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. [1] The students also led a sit-in protest outside UMass Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes’s office that resulted in the arrest of 57 students. The students demanded that the university should “divest and cut ties from weapons manufacturers which arm Israel’s genocide in Gaza.” Some of the companies listed are Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and more. [2]

The protest march was led by several groups on the UMass Amherst campus, including the UMass Students for Justice in Palestine, UMass Dissenters, UMass Black Student Union, UMass Prison Abolition Collective and many others. UMass Amherst’s student-run newspaper reported that around 250 students were sitting outside Reyes’ office in the Whittmore Administration Building. Fifty seven students remained outside his office past 6 p.m. when the building closed and were steadfast in protesting outside his office until their demands were met. Upon student protestors’ refusal to leave the building, the campus police arrested 57 students for trespassing and took them to the UMass Police Station.

Following the arrest, Reyes released a campus-wide statement acknowledging student activism on campus and students exercising their freedom of free speech and expression. On Thursday, Oct. 26, student leaders met Reyes to talk with the senior leaders on campus. Part of the statement read: “We know, too, that we are grappling with the arrest of more than 50 members of our community for refusing a lawful order to depart a university building after it was closed. Members of the Student Affairs and Campus Life team were at the Whittmore Administration Building until 2:30 a.m. this morning to provide support and guidance to every student, no matter what brought them to the space. Everyone who was arrested has been released, and we will reach out to them individually as they navigate the next steps of both the judicial process and the university’s Code of Student Conduct process.” [3]

In response to Reyes’ statement, student groups who led the protest march issued an emotive statement on their Instagram. The statement called out the chancellor and said his words had no meaning because the university was “actively helping the Israeli state in its genocidal campaign.” The statement specifically mentioned Raytheon and demanded that the university break its partnership with Raytheon and stop the company from doing active recruitment on campus. The student groups rejected their follow-up meeting with Reyes, which was supposed to take place Tuesday, Oct. 31, as they believed Reyes would meet with them “from a place of bad faith.”

Concluding their statement, the student leaders emphasized their unwavering commitment to their demands, firmly stating that they would not compromise and would persist in their advocacy and efforts until their demands were met. “Put out a statement in support of the University’s students who are fighting for the freedom of Palestinians. Be Revolutionary. Free Palestine,” read the statement. [4]

Amongst the student groups at UMass Amherst advocating for the university to end its involvement in death and war is UMass Dissenters. Malia Cole, a spokesperson from the group, answered some of the questions and provided insights into the advocacy work led by a coalition of student groups. Cole said her group and others met with Reyes to talk about their demands and asserted that he should take immediate action by cutting ties with companies like Boeing and Raytheon.

When asked about the arraignment process of the students charged with trespassing, Cole said the students were divided into four groups for the arraignment, and the further judicial process would take place in the coming months. One of the professors on campus is representing the students as their lawyer, and during the arraignment, students plead not guilty of trespassing charges. Cole is hopeful and optimistic about the coalition’s work and underlined that student groups would continue advocating for their demands.

UMass Boston students and a few faculty members showed up for a pro-Palestine protest march on campus. Around one hundred students marched down from the Campus Center front lawn to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and back to the Campus Canter. Many students wore Keffiyehs, a traditional Palestinian scarf, to show solidarity with their community.

[1] https://dailycollegian.com/2023/10/57-protestors-arrested-at-whitmore-sit-in/

[2] https://www.instagram.com/p/CytbHjIPT_q/?img_index=4

[3] Email Copy

[4] https://www.instagram.com/p/CzCYZutPAxp/?img_index=1

About the Contributor
Kaushar Barejiya, News Editor