Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Students for Justice in Palestine and UMass Dissenters hold second protest, discuss demands with Chancellor Reyes

Nearly 150 students gather for second protest following previous night’s arrests
Kira Johnson

The University of Massachusetts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and UMass Dissenters held a second protest at the Whitmore Administration building on Thursday, Oct. 26, following the sit-in that occurred the night before which resulted in 57 arrests for trespassing.

The protest organizers claimed 18 of the 57 arrested students were allegedly in cramped cells and handcuffed to the wall of the UMass Police Department garage, with the AC “blasting.”

The organizers also claimed those arrested were given “contradictory and unclear information,” about failed processing and release.

Leadership from both groups met with Chancellor Javier Reyes and his team, including Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed at around 2 p.m., while over 100 students and UMass community members congregated outside Whitmore to listen to testimonies and sing songs of protest.

Afterward, protesters lined the walls of the hallway outside Reyes’ office in anticipation of negotiation updates.

The groups entered the negotiation with demands for the Chancellor to cut ties with Raytheon and to send a campus-wide email “condemn[ing] Israel’s genocide of the Palestinians,” group leaders said.

“As a Palestinian, I am telling you right now, this email is f*****g action…this is the first step,” SJP President Ruya Hazeyen, senior political science and Middle Eastern studies major, said.

At around 3:45 p.m., group leadership informed the crowd of their meeting with the Chancellor. The speakers clarified to the protesters that for those arrested the night prior, the University will not penalize their financial aid or academic standing. Group leadership made it clear, however, they were overall disappointed in the outcome of the negotiations, claiming the meeting was “dehumanizing” and “just kept going in circles.”

“The whole time it felt like I was talking to like a robot. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just like he’s a carbon copy of like an administrator with powers that won’t do anything,” group leadership said, in reflection on the meeting.

Later, at around 5:43 p.m., Chancellor Reyes sent out an email regarding campus activism and policies.

“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…no one was arrested for their views, and everyone was provided multiple opportunities to leave,” the email stated.

In an Instagram post, Dissenters and SJP described the email as an “empty statement filled with lip-service, inaction…and a failure to condemn Israel’s genocide in Gaza and cut ties with war profiteers.” The student groups said it’s their “duty to dissent and force UMass to end its complicity in the ongoing siege of Gaza,” and will continue to organize movements.

“[I’m] personally feeling very discouraged and very tired, but we just simply do not have the fucking privilege to be tired when the poor are dying by the hundreds and thousands every day,” Hazeyen said.

In an email statement, SGA President Tess Weisman highlighted SGA’s conduct advising program.

“Josh [Gauthier] and I strongly encourage and value the rights of students to peacefully protest, and I hope that all students are, and continue to be, safe as they exercise their freedom of speech and assembly,” Weisman stated.

Group leadership intended to have a follow-up meeting with Chancellor Reyes on Oct. 31, however, in an Instagram statement signed by 13 additional student groups, they called off the meeting stating, “We believe [Reyes] would continue to meet with us from a place of bad faith.”

Grace Lee can be reached at [email protected], Olivia Capriotti can be reached at [email protected]. Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected].

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