Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

13 students arrested amid protest outside Emerson presidential inauguration

Among those who were arrested outside the Cutler Majestic Theater on Friday, 12 students were Emerson students and one was a non-Emerson student.

 

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Twelve Emerson students and one non-Emerson student were arrested Friday afternoon outside Cutler Majestic Theater, where President Jay Bernhardt’s inauguration was taking place. 

Prior to the arrests, Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), along with the Emerson Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Emerson College Students’ Union (ECSU), organized a rally and revolutionary breakfast at 10 a.m. at the Uncommon Stage in the Boston Common. The rally protested the “college’s tuition hikes, suppression of students and faculty, and silence on the ongoing genocide in Gaza,” according to an Emerson SJP Instagram post.

“Emerson has lied and failed to protect its students,” Emerson SJP said in a statement about the arrests on Instagram. “The college is directly responsible for what happened today and over the last six months of the genocide in Gaza.”

According to an email announcement from the college sent out to the Emerson community on Friday night, approximately 50 students gathered outside the theater at the start of the inauguration ceremony for the demonstration. Several protesters reportedly “did not comply with multiple police requests,” which led to 13 arrests, the email said. The email update said police reports indicated that the students were arrested for “disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.” 

“We support the right of individuals to express dissenting views and perspectives while doing so in a manner consistent with our policies and Code of Community Standards. This ensures our community is a safe place to learn, live, and work,” the email read. “We care deeply for our students and know there are many strong and conflicting emotions. As a community, we are committed to working together toward a shared understanding.” 

Emerson College Police Department (ECPD) did not respond to the Beacon’s requests for comment. Boston Police Department (BPD) told Beacon reporters that while ECPD utilized BPD’s facilities to arrest students and process them, ECPD will be handling potential charges and hearings.

In response to the Beacon’s initial request for comment, the college referred the Beacon to its email update to the community. 

Community members raised bail funds via Venmo to support the 13 students who were arrested—11 of whom were students of color. At around 2 p.m. on Friday, Emerson SJP announced on Instagram that they met their goal and, at the time, two out of 13 students had been released. The remaining funds would go towards Gazan GoFundMe pages, Emerson SJP said in the post.

“Thank you so much for all of the support,” Emerson SJP said in an Instagram post. “We will never forget the solidarity and community you have shown.“

At around 6:47 p.m. on Friday, the Boston branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, ECSU, and Emerson SJP posted a video on Instagram of students being released but said some were still in custody.

“We have people power and we will never be subdued,” Emerson SJP said in the post. “We will stand with our Emerson 13 and fight for each other always.”

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A post shared by Boston PSL (@bostonpsl)

All remaining students were released around 9 p.m., according to Emerson SJP’s Instagram story. 

After students were removed from custody, Emerson SJP said in an Instagram post that they did not receive support from the college. Associate Dean of Campus Life Christie Anglade placed restrictions that limit movement and engagement on campus for the 12 Emerson students, they said in the post.

Anglade did not immediately respond to the Beacon’s request for comment.

The rally in the Boston Common came in response to the 26 academic hearings Emerson SJP and ECSU received this past semester, 10 of which were served in the past week leading up to the protest. Emerson SJP said the hearings were “baseless and fabricated.” Emerson SJP and ECSU have not indicated what these hearings have been about or which college officials have been involved in each one.

According to Emerson SJP’s Instagram post, Vice President and Dean for Campus Life Jim Hoppe reached out to members of both groups requesting a meeting. Emerson SJP said in the post that they asked to meet with Bernhardt, which they had been requesting since the fall semester. After a delayed response, Hoppe initially declined their request and then accepted it at the last minute, but failed to set up a meeting before the ceremony, Emerson SJP said in the post. 

Hoppe did not immediately respond to the Beacon’s request for comment.

In a college email sent to the Emerson community on March 21, Bernhardt said the college hoped the inauguration event will bring the community together while acknowledging that students had plans to protest during the ceremony.  

“We respectfully remind all attendees that the college has policies on freedom of expression and protest, which permits peaceful protest immediately outside buildings and venues, provided that doors are not blocked,” Bernhardt wrote in the email. “Our policies prohibit protests and disruptions inside buildings, including the Cutler Majestic Theater, and those who ignore our policies will be held accountable.”

Emerson SJP said on Instagram that several bystanders voiced that there were clear pathways in and out of the building, but students were still arrested.

The March 21 email also said that the college “supports and believes in [the] community’s right to hold and express their opinions and expects everyone to comply with college policies regarding how they do so.” 

“We have set these guidelines to ensure that our community can engage in open discussion while simultaneously preventing the disruption of activities in order to continue the operations essential to the mission of the college,” the email said.

In an Instagram post from Bernhardt about the inauguration week festivities, posted on March 21, students flooded the comments with statements voicing their support for the 13 arrested individuals. As of March 23, there are 95 comments relating to the arrests and the college’s March 22 statement on the incident. Similar comments were left on the college’s official Instagram, with over 300 made on its most recent post

Several campus organizations, including Student Government Association, Emerson Asian Students in Alliance, Mercutio Troupe, Musical Theatre Society, Blue Jay Theater Collective, Emerson Flows, Beyond, emShakes Theatre Company, and Musical Theatre Against the Grain, have since posted statements on Instagram in solidarity with the 13 students arrested and condemning student suppression on campus. 

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About the Contributors
Hannah Nguyen
Hannah Nguyen, Managing Editor
Hannah Nguyen (she/her) is a junior journalism major from North Wales, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in publications like The Boston Globe, North Penn Now and AsAmNews. Outside of writing, she enjoys thrifting and painting her nails. (see: https://linktr.ee/hannahcnguyen)
Olivia LeDuc
Olivia LeDuc, News Editor
Olivia LeDuc (she/her) is a journalism student and assistant editor for the campus coverage of The Beacon’s news section. When she’s not reporting, you can find her crocheting or going on yet another long walk in the city.

Comments (1)

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    Sarah Pack / Mar 24, 2024 at 8:00 pm

    If the college knew there would be students protesting why not set up barricades at the entrance to ensure the path was clear?
    Why would Bernhardt not make an effort to meet with the 13/12 students and have a dialogue with a non bias facilitator?
    Why would Hoppe not do that? He had a clear opportunity and passed on it. That enough makes student feel their concerns aren’t important enough.
    There are so many issues here…. Emerson issues, political issues, student body issues. That’s a lot of issues in one protest.
    As a parent of a student that was not involved but devastated by this, I’m very upset. I do think the college is not very transparent. Is not using their funds correctly. This is an incredible expensive school. There are so many rich families in attendance it’s hard for those that are not in that income base. It often feels like we are laughed at when we ask of more funding or just help. It does kind of seem like a school for the rich only. Bernhardt is so far cold and not approachable. I think this is going to be a tough time ahead. And honestly what is the schools stance on the war in Gaza. I wish you could explain why the kids want them to stop supporting the war. How is Emerson doing this? I really don’t understand.

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