Fate of Anti-Israel Jewish Students Arrested at Brown Unsettled as University Investigates
‘Our Judaism compels us to oppose the Israeli state,’ a group of Brown students wrote prior to their sit-in and arrest Wednesday night.
The fate of 20 Brown University students who were arrested Wednesday following an anti-Israel sit-in hangs in the air following their release from jail and pending an investigation by Brown.
“The 20 students that were charged with willful trespassing by Brown University were given a notice to appear in court at a later date and were subsequently released from the custody of the Providence Police Department last night,” a Providence city spokesman, Josh Estrella, tells the Sun.
The students, part of “BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now,” were protesting in the school’s University Hall, demanding that Brown’s president, Christina Paxson, divest endowment funds from “companies that enable war crimes in Gaza,” the group says.
Brown’s public safety department processed and arrested the students and transported them to the Providence Police Department, the school said in a statement, after the students refused to leave when the building closed.
“After offering students every opportunity for a different outcome, Brown issued multiple trespass warnings and ultimately moved forward in arresting 20 students who refused to leave a campus building where their presence after operating hours posed security concerns,” the school’s statement says.
When asked by the Sun if last night’s events will affect the academic status of the students or if Brown will pursue any further course of action against them, Brown’s spokesman, Brian Clark, said the school will be investigating the incident.
“Brown has detailed procedures in place to investigate alleged conduct code violations, resolve them, and implement discipline in instances when students are found responsible, and any additional disciplinary measures will be based on the outcome of those processes,” Mr. Clark says.
Brown’s policies are clear that “protest is a necessary and acceptable means of expression on campus,” the school said. “They also make clear that because Brown respects and upholds freedom of expression, the ‘time, place and manner’ of exercising those rights is subject to regulation only ‘to prevent interference with the normal functions of the University.’”
In an open letter posted to the Brown Daily Herald by “a collective of anti-occupation Jews,” the students said they stand in support of “liberation of the Palestinian peoples.”
“Zionist institutions purport to be representative of all Jews, often using us as a rhetorical shield to support the unconscionable actions of the state of Israel,” the letter reads. “We feel a particular pain as Jews having to continuously justify our stance against genocide.”
Despite an increase in antisemitic hate crimes in America since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war and the death this week of an elderly Jewish man following an altercation with an anti-Israeli protester, the Jewish students at Brown insist they are not endangered.
The Palestinian groups at Brown are “the groups most forthrightly advocating for the safety and protection of Jewish students, staff and faculty who vocally oppose the actions of the Israeli state,” the open letter says. “And, if we were to feel a shift in that safety, we would find solace and support in (this) community and diaspora, not in any Zionist institution.”
The students write that “our Judaism compels us to oppose the Israeli state,” a sentiment that a Jewish state senator at Rhode Island, Sam W. Bell, echoed on X.
“Our religious obligation to the pursuit of justice defines Judaism,” Mr. Bell, who is a graduate of Brown, wrote. “There’s a reason so many American Jews fight hard against injustice — especially when done in our name.”
The Sun was unable to reach a member of BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now for comment.
When asked if there are plans to prosecute the students or pursue further legal action, a representative from Rhode Island’s Attorney General’s office, Brian Hodge, said if there were any misdemeanor charges, it would be handled by the Providence City Solicitor’s office before the 6th Division District Court.
The city’s solicitor, Jeffrey Dana, was not reachable by the Sun for comment.