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NYCLU on Arrests of Pro-Palestine Protestors at NYU

Violent arrests follow NYPD deployment at encampment at Columbia last week

NEW YORK, NY – In response to NYU’s deployment of the NYPD to arrest pro-Palestine demonstrators, the New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement, attributable to Executive Director Donna Lieberman:

“Political expression and activism are in New York City’s DNA. The city’s campuses and public spaces have a history of accommodating large and ongoing demonstrations, including controversial actions from sit-ins on campuses to week-long protests in our parks. In difficult times, speaking out, debate, and dialogue matter more than ever.

“Yet it seems city and campus leaders have short memories. As protests about Israel and Palestine have increased, universities have been too quick to call in the NYPD to break up peaceful demonstrations. Increasingly campuses and cops are cracking down on political expression, rushing in police to arrest protestors and authorizing aggressive treatment. Last night the NYPD deployed its violent Strategic Response Group to use pepper spray on demonstrators and shut down protests near New York University. Preemptively flooding nonviolent student actions with officers in riot gear and the use of chemical agents escalates tensions, intimidates those who would participate in further protest, and discourages meaningful dialogue.

“Jewish, Arab, and Muslim students have all expressed fears for their safety on campus. Accounts of antisemitic, anti-Muslim, and anti-Palestinian rhetoric are deeply disturbing. Students deserve to be safe and learn, and threats and violence are illegal and must be resoundingly rejected. Yet city and campus officials should take great care to distinguish between controversial speech, which helps students and society develop, and actual threats. Officials should not conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism or use hate incidents as a pretext to silence political views they oppose.

“When protest activity makes students feel threatened or intimidated to participate in campus life, it is the responsibility of university officials to differentiate political disagreements from hate and to ensure that free speech principles are applied even-handedly, regardless of political viewpoint. University officials do a serious disservice when they respond to the concerns of one group at the expense of another, or when they assume all individuals within any group share the same viewpoint.

“New Yorkers should be able to voice their support for Palestine without fearing becoming a target of the NYPD or a victim of police abuse.”

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