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Monday, June 24, 2024
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Arrested pro-Palestine protesters still facing day in court

Only 1 demonstrator was charged with a misdemeanor; the rest are facing non-criminal violations

<p>Only one pro-Palestine protester has been charged with an actual criminal offense: resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. The rest are facing non-criminal, violation-level charges.&nbsp;</p>

Only one pro-Palestine protester has been charged with an actual criminal offense: resisting arrest, a misdemeanor. The rest are facing non-criminal, violation-level charges. 

The demonstrators arrested during an on-campus, pro-Palestine protest on May 1 are still facing a range of legal charges, according to statements from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office and the Amherst Town Attorney’s Office. 

Protesters are currently facing “approximately 14 pending violation-level offenses” according to the Amherst Town Attorney, representing the vast majority of charges against demonstrators. 

The Town Attorney declined to disclose the number of protesters charged, their identities or the specific charges being levied because “no appearance has occurred in Amherst Town Court for any individual.” UB said in a statement the day after the protest that those arrested were written up on “a range” of violations, including trespass, loitering and disorderly conduct. 

Violations are non-criminal offenses that don’t appear on individuals’ criminal records, according to the New York State Court System. Violation-level offenses still carry a maximum sentence of 15 days and/or a $250 fine. 

Only one individual has been charged with an actual criminal offense — resisting arrest, a misdemeanor — according to the DA’s Office. That individual — whose name was withheld by the DA’s Office because they haven’t yet been arraigned — was also charged with loitering, a violation. They were released with an appearance ticket and are due back in Amherst Town Court on May 29. Resisting arrest carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail or three years of probation, according to FindLaw

UB students remain among those facing charges, even though UB dropped on-campus Student Code of Conduct violations against the seven students arrested. University spokesperson John Della Contrada said last week that the arrested students “were advised” that they must obey the Student Code of Conduct.

About 80 pro-Palestine protesters gathered outside Hochstetter Hall on May 1 to demand that the UB Foundation divest from Israel and companies doing business with the Middle Eastern country. The demonstrators attempted to set up an encampment, but tore down their tents after being ordered to do so by police. 

University Police, accompanied by dozens of other officers from a wide range of local departments, began making arrests at 8:22 p.m., just minutes after sunset. UB says that by remaining on campus, protesters violated its 2020 Picketing and Assembling Policy, which prohibits “overnight assemblies” and protests lasting longer than 12 hours. UB has not used this policy to stop other on-campus protests — like those against conservative pundits Michael Knowles and Allen West’s on-campus speeches — that continued past sundown. 

Multiple officers tackled protesters. One officer was filmed pushing a demonstrator’s face into the ground. Another appeared to rip a protester’s hijab off in a since-deleted video posted to the UB Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Instagram story

UB says that 15 people were arrested, one protester was sent to the hospital with “minor” injuries and two police officers were treated on campus for “minor” injuries. A protest organizer told The Spectrum that 18 demonstrators were arrested and two were injured. 

In a separate incident, an 18-year-old student has been charged with attempting to make a terrorist threat, a felony, and a misdemeanor for posting a picture of a May 6 pro-Israel demonstration with the caption “can somebody shoot this s—t up” on the class of 2027 public Snapchat story. The student turned himself in after being identified by police and was released with a date in Amherst Town Court. 

Hundreds of pro-Palestine protesters have been arrested at at least three other SUNY schools this month. Local prosecutors are taking different approaches to the charges. 

The Westchester County DA’s Office won’t prosecute the “vast majority” of the 68 pro-Palestine protesters arrested at SUNY Purchase, according to The Journal News. All but a “small number” will instead be given the option to enroll in Westchester County’s “Fresh Start” program for first-time offenders. 

132 people, many of them students, were arrested during a May 2 pro-Palestine demonstration at SUNY New Paltz, according to The Poughkeepsie Journal. One of those arrested was charged with assault for throwing a metal bottle at a police officer. Three others were charged with resisting arrest. The Ulster County District Attorney’s said in a May 14 statement that it was reviewing “violation-level charges of trespass and disorderly conduct to determine a just and appropriate disposition.” 

29 protesters, including 22 students, were arrested the night of May 1 at Stony Brook University (SBU), according to The Statesman. The Stony Brook Faculty Senate has since demanded that SBU drop charges against protesters. 

Grant Ashley is the editor-in-chief and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com  


GRANT ASHLEY
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Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for NPR, WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley. 

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