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

Whitmore sit-in protest: Last 10 students arraigned on Tuesday

Arrested students from Whitmore sit-in held a press conference following the arraignment
Dylan Nguyen
Daily Collegian (2023)

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, the final group of 10 students from the 57 arrested last Wednesday were arraigned in Eastern Hampshire District Court. Similar to the other arraignments, the students plead not-guilty to charges of trespassing and are moving forward to their pre-trial hearing on Dec. 14.

Following the arraignment, the group held a press conference outside the courtroom where members from the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and the UMass Dissenters recalled the Oct. 27 sit-in.

“Whitmore is where students are encouraged to go when they want to be heard in a safe space and practice real civic engagement,” said sophomore history major Joseph Biers-Browne. “We feel betrayed.”

Hani Shaib, a junior studying social thought and political economy, described his experience as part of the last group of protesters to be taken to the University of Massachusetts Police Department.

“We were handcuffed in like some sort of loading bay while they brought people in one by one where we were then put into a holding cell,” Shaib said. “In the holding cell we were also handcuffed to the wall and then we were taken out to be processed.”

Charlie McDonald, a junior English major, also claimed to be handcuffed to a wall for over an hour.

After being processed, Shaib described that he was handcuffed back to the wall and “remained there until roughly six in the morning,” before being released on bail.

When asked about the entire process of being arrested, Shaib recognized that the police “just did their jobs,” and that his experience in the holding cell and the lack of blankets for those arrested were logistical issues.

UMPD has not responded for comment.

Biers-Browne restated the demands for the University administration to divest from and cut ties with companies that contribute to the arming of Israel’s military, such as Raytheon, and for Chancellor Javier Reyes to release a statement condemning Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza.

The students met with Reyes last Thursday and described the meeting as a “non-starter,” according to Shaib.

“We are disappointed but not surprised by the outcome of this meeting,” Shaib said. “During our conversation, the Chancellor [Reyes] looked two Arab students in the eyes, one of whom was Palestinian, and outright refused to condemn the genocide and ethnic cleansing of their people perpetrated by the State of Israel.”

“They [University administration] continue to ally themselves with these perpetrators of genocidal violence…they arrest us when [we] tried to talk to our chancellor, they ignore us, dehumanize us and belittle us. How dare you,” Biers-Browne said.

Following the events, SJP and UMass Dissenters formed a coalition with other student groups on campus, hoping to promote “greater unity.”

“We’re all together in this fight. The more people we have behind us, the stronger we are,” said Biers-Browne.

The group has decided not to meet with Reyes again until he “proves through action” to meet with them in “good faith,” said Shaib. Toby Paperno, a junior social thought and political economy major, indicated that good faith constitutes Reyes sending an email condemning Israel’s bombardment and siege of Gaza.

A few members of the Amherst community joined in support, holding signs saying, “Free Palestinians,” “Justice for Gaza” and “Thank you UMass students for protesting Gaza genocide.”

Attorney Rachel Weber, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, represented the group of arrested students. She was a legal observer at the sit-in and was present when the arrests began.

The process following the pre-trial hearing, she said, depends on numerous factors: “It depends on what the students as a group decide … if the Commonwealth is willing to dismiss the charges or reduce the charges from trespassing to civil infraction, it’s hard to say at the moment [but] it will be developing.” Weber is one of a team of attorneys working on this case.

This is a developing story.

Jack Underhill can be reached at [email protected] and followed on X @JackUnderhill16. Mahidhar Sai Lakkavaram can be reached at [email protected]

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