Two graduate students arrested after Gaza supporters erect tents on Princeton University campus

Princeton University officials acted swiftly Thursday morning to quell the building of an encampment by students protesting Israel’s ongoing military campaign in Gaza.

Students are demanding full financial divestment from Israel, military divestment, and a public ceasefire statement.

Dozens of similar demonstrations have sprung up at college campuses across the country in the days since police tried to clear a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” at Columbia University, arresting more than 100 protesters. Students at Yale, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and other schools have built such encampments, with some of the protests leading to clashes with police. In Texas, hundreds of officers charged at students in Austin after they received orders to clear campus demonstrations. Police also clashed with protesters at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Overnight in Boston, riot police were seen using batons against students outside Emerson College, and Thursday morning, Atlanta police tasing and restrained a student protester at Emory University.

At Princeton, about 100 students and faculty members gathered in the McCosh Courtyard near the Princeton University Chapel on Thursday at about 7 a.m. Then about half a dozen tents were erected, in violation of Princeton University policies.

University officials confirmed that two students were arrested.

“After repeated warnings from the Department of Public Safety to cease the activity and leave the area, two graduate students were arrested for trespassing,” Princeton University Director of Media Relations Jennifer Morrill said. “All tents were then voluntarily taken down by protestors. The two graduate students have been immediately barred from campus, pending a disciplinary process.”

Princeton University Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun had sent a message to students on Wednesday detailing school policies for protests.

“You may be aware that there have been significant disruptions on some university campuses in recent days. Those disruptions and their aftermath have distressed campus communities, harmed students, and hindered the ability of the institutions to fulfill their educational missions. Against that backdrop, I write to ask for your help in ensuring that we can continue to balance our robust commitment to free expression with our obligation to provide a welcoming and safe environment for all students and for other members of our community.,” Calhoun wrote, citing the school’s statement on free expression.

“Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.’That guarantee extends to protests and demonstrations, provided they do not involve genuine threats, harassment, or conduct that impedes the right of others to be heard, violates the law, or disrupts essential operations,” Calhoun wrote. “I am proud of what we have accomplished together during this academic year despite the challenges and discord that have enveloped our society. Our campus has hosted many orderly protests, rallies, marches, and other events where our students, faculty, and staff have made their voices heard on issues that often sharply divide Princetonians.”

Free speech facilitators for the university have attended more than 75 events this academic year to ensure that free-speech rights are respected, Calhoun said. The university only regulates expression in viewpoint-neutral and limited ways when necessary to ensure the safety of the community or to prevent disruption to ordinary activities of the university. “We want to be able to continue to support your right to make your voices heard in a safe and respectful way,” Calhoun wrote.

Protests that disrupt operations, occupy or block access to buildings, establish outdoor encampments, or include sleeping in any campus outdoor space are “inherently unsafe for both those involved and for bystanders, and they increase the potential for escalation and confrontation. They are also inconsistent with the University’s mission and its legal obligation to provide a safe environment for all students and employees,” Calhoun wrote.

University policies explicitly prohibit encampments. “Any individual involved in an encampment, occupation, or other unlawful disruptive conduct who refuses to stop after a warning will be arrested and immediately barred from campus,” Calhoun wrote. “For students, such exclusion from campus would jeopardize their ability to complete the semester. In addition, members of our community would face a disciplinary process.”

Calhoun warned that students could face suspension, a delay in receiving a diploma, or expulsion if they violate the school’s policies.

Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber wrote an op-ed that was published in the student newspaper Thursday about “time, place, and manner” regulations to universities’ academic and educational missions.

“Despite its breadth, Princeton’s free speech policy — again, like the First Amendment to the Constitution — contains exceptions. For example, it prohibits genuine threats and harassment. It also explicitly recognizes that ‘the University may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner of expression to ensure that it does not disrupt the ordinary activities of the University’,” Eisgruber wrote. “The University thus may, and indeed does, limit the times and places where protests can occur. It may, and indeed does, prohibit tactics, such as encampments or the occupation of buildings, that interfere with the scholarly and educational mission of the University or that increase safety risks to members of the University community.”

In spite of the warnings from school officials, protesters began erecting tents Thursday morning and campus police issued verbal warnings that they were in violation of university rules. Shortly after the tents were erected, police approached the area and then arrested the two graduate students. Other students then voluntarily packed up their tents.

Protesters remained on the lawn without the tents as of Thursday afternoon, chanting slogans supporting Palestine and cheering in response to calls for Princeton to divest from Israel and boycott Israeli institutions. As the day has gone on the number of protesters has continued to grow.

A small group of about 10 counter-protesters held posters demanding that Hamas release Israeli hostages.

Students appear to be planning to stay on the lawn around the clock without tents. On Thursday afternoon they requested help in the form of sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, hats, hand warmers, gloves, tarps, and warm food.

10 Comments

  1. Anyone notice the hypocrisy of these protestors? Just one of many examples is that while demanding PU divest from Israel in part from research that includes “automated software and artificial intelligence technology used to enable genocide” they all stood around using their cell phones (the technology for which was invented in Israel) and I’m sure they love their Intel Pentium and Celeron computer processors, also originating in Israel. They shouldn’t communicate by email anymore either as the algorithm that’s used today for sending e-mails was made by an Israeli. If this type of research is no longer funded, these technological advances will stop and these hypocritical students who don’t know how to write by hand, have social conversations without texting and certainly can’t send a letter by snail mail will lose their minds!

    1. Please do not claim for Israel technologies that are results of international efforts.

      More importantly, with the same amount of dollar per head that USA (governments and coporations) has given to the Israel, ANY other population would have contributed the same.

      1. People in Israel, a country the size of NJ, have won more Nobel prizes than nearly any other country in the world. It doesn’t just happen by happenstance. That’s like saying you could’ve invented the cel phone, you just didn’t get the funding. Sometimes facts can just be facts.

        1. You have not addressed my concern about you claiming international technologies as Israel’s and started claiming that Israelis having won “more Nobel prizes” as FACT when Israel is NOT even in the top 10 (whether counting absolute number or per capita), btw 7 out of those 13 Nobel laureates counted were not even born in Israel.

          Are you trying to claim that it is religion or race (not funding) that drives technological progress ?

  2. These kids need to get a grip—if they actually understand the intricacies of the incredibly complex issues between Israel and Palestine, that would be one thing. Most of them seem pretty clueless and just hopping on the trend of demonstrating against Israel. When it verges, as it frequently does, into antisemitism, they do not appear to even care. Maybe they’ll care when they don’t get an extension for a senior thesis due this Friday or a paper which is now late. Maybe they won’t because entitled young people don’t care about consequences. Free speech is important and should be protected but what has been seen on many college campuses, especially Columbia and Yale, is a great deal of antisemitism, pure and simple. Maybe Pres Eisgruber is protecting his job, maybe he’s ensuring there’s no harrassment, bullying or intimidation on Princeton campus…either way, good on him.

    1. Firstly, these are not “kids”, these are intelligent well educated adults. Secondly, they not protesting against Semites, they are ptotesting against the killing of innocents. Thirdly, there are many Jews (faculty and student) amongst them.

      1. Were the 1,200 Israelis at a music festival or asleep in their homes not innocents? If they wanted to protest the killing of innocents, they would demand Hamas lay down their arms and give Gaza back to the Palestinian people (at which time Israel would fully retreat), Hezbollah lay down their arms and let Israeli’s move back into their homes in Northern Israel (at which point Israel would stop retaliating), and demand Iran stop backing militant militias – and all the fighting would be over.

        1. (1) Everyone agrees that innocent Israelis should not be killed, the problem is NOT everyone agrees that innocent Palestinians should not be killed. (2) So you suggest “give Gaza back to Palestinian” and continue the decades long oppressions like the blockade since 2007 ? (3) By “fighting would be over” you mean UNTIL the boy who saw his sister’s head got shot off by Israeli snippers grew up ?

  3. It’s past time to call out the pro Hamas protestors for what they are.
    Being against the Israeli gov for its policy’s is one thing but spreading hatred against the Jewish students for being Jewish is a totally different matter. Until the protestors all can speak out against Hamas and the Oct 7 attack against innocent people living their lives there is no room for negotiation, they must be shut down. Anti semitism cannot and should not be tolerated in any form. Just like Islamophobia can’t be tolerated. Which ever side you are on you cannot justify an attack, indiscriminate killing of innocent woman and children, young people attending a music festival, Grand Parents and civilian men and taking hostages. These are not freedom fighters. These are the acts of terror.
    Free speech is not unlimited, call it out for what it is and shut it down.

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