Pro-Palestinian Protesters Arrested, Suspended After Holding Sit-In at Vanderbilt Building

Demands included reinstating a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions ballot initiative
March 29, 2024
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More than two dozen pro-Palestinian protesters who staged a sit-in at a Vanderbilt University administration building on Tuesday morning were arrested or suspended.

According to reports, around 30 protesters rushed Kirkland Hall, where Chancellor Daniel Diermeier has his office, and held a sit-in for nearly 24 hours over the university removing a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) ballot initiative. Three students were arrested for allegedly pushing a community service officer and faculty member; a fourth, who was protesting outside the building, was arrested for allegedly breaking a window. Video footage released by the university appears to show a security guard attempting to hold back a few protesters as they rush into the building.

One of the students who was arrested for allegedly pushing the officer told The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper that he and one of the other alleged perpetrators did not touch the officer and that the officer “put his hands” on their necks, although the Hustler could not confirm the claim, as the student paper claimed that the university blurred out parts of the video.

The university gave the rest of the students involved in the sit-in interim suspensions.

One of the protesters claimed that they “were deprived of medical attention, we were deprived of sleep, we were deprived of food, water, resources” and that “in jail I experienced better conditions than at Vanderbilt University.”

In a separate incident, a reporter for the local paper The Nashville Scene, was arrested forallegedly attempting to enter the building after being told that press was not allowed inside, though he claimed he was not informed that press were not allowed inside. The reporter was released without charges.

In a March 27 email sent to community members, Diermeier wrote that “dozens of peaceful demonstrations have occurred over the past several months. In consideration of safety and the university’s normal operations, we, as a matter of policy, define time, place and manner limitations The university will take action when our policies are violated, the safety of our campus is jeopardized and when people intimidate or injure members of our community.”

“Bravo to @VU_Chancellor for taking action & arresting ‘activists’ at @VanderbiltU
who assaulted a security guard, smashed a window & breached a university building,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt posted on X. “I suspect suspensions will follow, too. But it’s important: this isn’t free speech; it’s intimidation & violence & it threatens Jewish students & everyone on campus.”

Regarding the university’s removal of the BDS initiative, Diermeier told the Hustler on March 19 that because Vanderbilt is a private university, the First Amendment is “not legally binding for us” and that if the university were to endorse BDS, then under state and federal law the university’s state contracts would be terminated. Further, doing so would tarnish the university’s “institutional neutrality.” Palestine Legal sent the university a cease-and-desist letter to the university the day before demanding that the university to reinstate the initiative to the ballot.

“This type of hatred has no space on our campus. BDS is antisemitism. We stand united, fervently, against BDS in any form.” – Joint statement by AEPi, Chabad, ‘Dores for Israel, Hillel and Students Supporting Israel

The university’s AEPi chapter, Chabad, ‘Dores for Israel, Hillel and Students Supporting Israel issued a joint statement claiming that the original version of the BDS initiative “would have scrutinized Jewish and pro-Israel organizations for supporting companies that do business with Israel. It would also scrutinize students orgs who engage in partnerships with organizations who spend funds on the BDS movement’s targets.” The initiative is “a way of socially ostracizing Jew and Zionists from the rest of the campus,” the four student groups argued. They thanked the university “for acknowledging that this type of hatred has no space on our campus. BDS is antisemitism. We stand united, fervently, against BDS in any form.”

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