Released Emerson College students respond to arrests: “Emerson 13 to Emerson 108 is a pretty big jump”

As some of their colleagues threw students on the ground, some police officers shoved students into college buildings to clear the alley and trap them inside.

By Payton Cavanaugh

**The number of students arrested has changed to a confirmed 118 per the Boston Police Department**

Police created a barricade at each end of Boylston Street from Piano Row to the Little Building, and they continued to arrest students, especially those continuing the protest near the Little Building.
Photography by Rian Nelson

Around 2:00 a.m. on the fifth day of the Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine encampment, 108 people were arrested in the Boylston Place alley (many of which are Emerson students). Dozens of Boston Police Officers were sent out into the alley in riot gear. Students were taken to various precincts across the city, from the North End to Roxbury.

Students stand shoulder to shoulder as they wait for police to arrive. Photography by Rian Nelson

Charlie Williams is one of the over one hundred people arrested. He described his experience.

“I had heard that everything was going sideways,” said Williams, “They pushed me against the dining hall window and then against the ground… There was a video, apparently I got dog piled, there were two or three police. They seemed very happy about the whole situation.”

There were many similar accounts to that of Williams. Multiple videos of the altercations and arrests are circulating online. Many students have since claimed excessive force at the hands of the Boston Police.

Police drag a student away. Photography by Rian Nelson

David S has worked closely with Emerson SJP and was at the encampment during the arrests. He called the violence “extreme.”

“If you’ve seen the videos, you cannot deny the reality of what is going on here… they attacked us with batons. They were in riot gear. They had a coordinated plan of pulling us out of our ranks in order to throw us onto the ground and pin us, usually three or four police officers per person. I saw friends who were very small being thrown. I saw handicapped people being thrown,” said David.

A police officer rips an umbrella meant to protect against tear gas out from a student’s hand before tearing them away from the line onto the ground to be arrested. Photography by Rian Nelson

David went on to explain the peaceful nature of the student protests.

“Students were not being violent. Students were only trying to protect their own. The most that we did was pull our fellow students back from the clutches of the police,” said David, “They were dragging us by our necks, by our hips, by our arms, by anything they could grab to brutalize us. If you watch the videos that is evident and undeniable.”

Students in the 2B residential hold signs up as word spread about possible tear gas being deployed. Photography by Rian Nelson

The first group of students to be called to court were summoned for 8:30 AM. Crowds of students showed up to the courtroom and various precincts throughout the day to support their peers as they began to be released.

Williams was among some of the last students released.

“When I rounded the corner with my belongings and saw the packed lawn… Somehow that never occurred to me because my suite mates followed me to the A1 precinct but I wasn’t expecting this here,” said Williams, “It’s beautiful to see community like this, and that’s been the case for the encampment the whole time.”

Williams wants people to know about the injuries his peers faced.

Police drag a student away. Photography by Rian Nelson

“I just shared a cell with a guy who had his arm effectively broken and was not given medical attention for some time—The same guy also had his face pushed into a statue,” said Williams, “I’m fine, but people aren’t.”

While all students are now released from custody, the aftermath of the arrests weighs heavy on many students.

“Last night was probably the biggest betrayal at this campus since March 22nd. We have once again been shown that the administration doesn’t really care what happens to their students as long as they can wash their hands of it,” said David S.

“Bernhardt sent out an email that morning saying that it was public property, that Emerson had nothing and they couldn’t control the police. It was very clearly a ploy to say that if it happens, it’s not Emerson’s fault. Even though they are the ones who are primarily responsible for keeping the police off of us… For me, we had a community and Emerson crushed it.”

As students navigate the days to come, David recollects on Emerson SJP’s encampment prior to police involvement.

As some of their colleagues threw students on the ground, some police officers shoved students into college buildings to clear the alley and trap them inside. Photography by Rian Nelson

“From my perspective we had the most successful community building event on campus ever in Emerson’s history, and Emerson had nothing to do with it. It was purely the community that put it together. It was purely the people who were there. Not just for Palestine, but for student liberation across the board,” said David.

After the events of last night, students like Charlie Williams remain determined to support their peers.

“Be peaceful. Have empathy, especially now,” said Williams, “Even with a thing like this there’s always that capacity.”