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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Student arrested for social media post encouraging violence against pro-Israel rally

The unidentified 18-year-old was charged with one felony and one misdemeanor after turning himself in

<p>About 75 demonstrators attended Monday's pro-Israel rally organized by the Jewish Student Union (JSU).&nbsp;</p>

About 75 demonstrators attended Monday's pro-Israel rally organized by the Jewish Student Union (JSU). 

An 18-year-old student was arrested on Monday after he allegedly encouraged violence against an on-campus pro-Israel rally organized by UB’s Jewish Student Union (JSU), UB announced

The student, who was not named by UB, turned himself in to University Police (UPD) after he was identified by law enforcement. He has been charged with attempting to make a terrorist threat, a felony, and attempting to make a threat of mass harm, a misdemeanor. He was released and issued an appearance ticket for Amherst Town Court.

The student is accused of posting a picture of the pro-Israel demonstration with the caption “can somebody shoot this s—t up” on the class of 2027 public Snapchat story. The original post got taken down, but students spread screenshots across multiple social media platforms, with many condemning the original post. 

JSU president Hudson Hort, who attended the pro-Israel demonstration, told The Spectrum that he reported the incident to UPD but was told he was “about the fifth person” to do so.

“While it’s always a scary thing to see, I’m proud of the community response, and I’m proud of the school’s response,” Hort said in a text message. “People saw something, and they said something.” 

The pro-Israel demonstration drew about 75 demonstrators and took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

The arrested student may also be charged with violations of UB’s Student Code of Conduct. The university said in a statement that, “generally speaking,” students who violate the code of conduct “may be subject to a variety of sanctions.” 

“The university will immediately respond whenever threatening, harassing or discriminatory acts are committed against a member of our community,” Vice President for Student Life Brian Hamluk said in a statement. “UB states in the strongest possible manner that we condemn and stand firmly against antisemitism, Islamophobia and discrimination of any form.”

But some students don’t believe UB is treating students equally. Zanaya Hussain, an e-board member for UB’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), told The Spectrum that the university’s swift response to Monday’s threatening post was “ironic” given its treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters last week.

“They themselves are perpetuating harm against Muslim and Palestinian students by arresting us, beating us, pulling our hijabs off,” Hussain said in a text message. “I guess it’s only white community members they care about, not the Muslims they arrested on Wednesday while praying Maghrib.” 

Monday’s JSU demonstration followed several pro-Palestine rallies on campus. On Wednesday, about 85 protesters attempted to set up an encampment next to Hochstetter Hall to call on the UB Foundation to divest from Israel, but they tore down their tents after being ordered to do so by law enforcement. Dozens of UPD and non-UPD police officers arrested 15 demonstrators, including seven UB students, later that evening for not leaving after sundown, according to UB. A protest organizer placed the number of arrests at 18. 

Police were seen tackling demonstrators and ripping off one woman’s hijab. A UB spokesperson said one protester and two police officers were injured. An organizer said two protesters were injured. 

The police response prompted some UB faculty and alumni to condemn the university’s handling of the protest. On Friday, hundreds marched on campus against the police use of force and continued to call for divestment. That demonstration was followed by smaller pro-Palestine rallies on Sunday and Monday. 

Monday wasn’t the first time that violent threats have been made on social media against on-campus protests. In 2022, one anonymous poster on Yik Yak threatened to carry out “target practice” on a Black Student Union-led demonstration against an on-campus speech by conservative commentator Allen West. Then-UPD Chief Chris Bartolomei said at the time that the threat was not “specific” or “actionable,” but UPD increased its on-campus presence and reached out to the FBI Hate Crimes Unit. No charges were filed in that case. 

Sol Hauser contributed reporting to this story. 

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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