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

Photos: Inside the erratic final hours of the Northeastern Gaza Solidarity encampment

Northeastern University’s “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” was created in the early morning of Thursday, April 25, starting at 8 a.m. and continuing through the afternoon. Northeastern students linked arms forming a human chain as other protesters began to set up tents and a chair barricade in the center of a circular lawn on the Centennial Common of campus. Despite police tensions on the first day of the encampment, it remained up for a total of 47 hours before being dismantled at the behest of the University early Saturday morning, resulting in the detainment of over 100 protesters.

Tensions at the encampment were highest on Friday night, as reports of a moving company being hired to assist state police in clearing the encampment overnight mobilized protesters. Protesters formed a human chain and began chanting as they awaited what they expected to be an imminent police raid. Among them were some Emerson students, many of whom did not risk arrest by actually joining the chain, but instead offered advice and lessons learned from the raid of the Emerson encampment earlier in the week. Most notably, some coached the Northeastern protesters on how to peacefully defend themselves in the course of arrest against tear gas usage and aggressive riot police.

Additionally, the presence of a dozen pro-Israeli counter-protesters at the encampment late on Friday night would be the cause of the night’s most tense and controversial moments. Two counterprotesters positioned themselves at the front of the human chain, standing on parts of the chair barricade and holding the flag of Israel between them while yelling at the pro-Palestine protesters as they chanted. 

As the counterprotesters verbally clashed with encampment dwellers they made chants of “Free the Hostages” in between the protester’s chants of “Free Free Palestine.” When pro-Palestine organizers repeatedly reiterated to the crowd that “We do not engage with counter-protesters,” they began to try and egg on a crowd response, telling the circles of demonstrators to “be sheep” and sarcastically, “Oh don’t engage. Your lawyers [referring to the organizers] tell you not to engage. They don’t go here either,” the last comment echoing the idea that the student encampment had been “infiltrated by professional organizers with no affiliation to Northeastern” from a statement made by the university after the encampment was cleared. Also in that statement, Northeastern Spokesperson Renata Nyul said “virulent antisemitic slurs” had been heard at the encampment.

During the short-lived interaction with the pro-Israeli counterprotesters, the phrase “Kill the Jews,” was audible at one point among the crowd as tensions between the groups further escalated and protesters outside the encampment began to form circles around the counter-protesters. The comment came as the pro-Palestine demonstrators engaged in an attention focusing call and response chant known as a “mic check.” Video shared by the Massachusetts Peace Action revealed the comment to have come from one of the pro-Israeli counterprotesters who yelled, “Kill the Jews. Anybody on board, anybody on board? You just chanted for it,” in “an apparent attempt to get the crowd to repeat the antisemitic remark,” Peace Action said in a statement.

In response to criticism from student groups and various peace organizations that the university had made “unfounded accusations” about antisemitism among the pro-Palestinian protesters by misattributing the remark to justify the encampment being cleared, Nyul responded in a later statement that “the fact that the phrase ‘Kill the Jews’ was shouted on our campus is not in dispute … Any suggestion that repulsive antisemitic comments are sometimes acceptable depending on the context is reprehensible. That language has no place on any university campus.”

The pro-Israeli counterprotesters were escorted away from the encampment by university police at 11:25 p.m., but they returned 20 minutes later to continue before leaving less than a half hour later for good. By 2 a.m., all was quiet on the Northeastern front as the encampers broke rank to relax and settle in for the evening as the members of NUPD and BPD present switched shifts.

At around 5:30 a.m., campus police, state police, and Boston police, some of them in riot gear, surrounded the encampment and began taking down the encampment barricade by 7 a.m. while protesters sat in a circle and watched. Once the barricades were deconstructed, protesters linked arms and formed a human chain as over 100 of them were taken in custody. Nyul said that “protesters who produced a valid Northeastern ID were released to face university disciplinary proceedings rather than legal action.”

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  • A few healthcare professionals position themselves at the front of the human chain advocating for the student’s right to protection, and peaceful protest, in the face of police presence on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Rian Nelson/Beacon Staff).

  • Tensions grow Friday night, April 26, 2024, at the Northeastern encampment due to suspicion of possible police action, causing protesters to form a human chain behind their chair wall barricade. A sign among the barricade reads, “The Adults turned a blind eye, so we were forced to say something.” (Bryan Hecht/Beacon Staff).

  • An Emerson student trains the members of the human chain on how to peacefully defend themselves from the inevitable arrest on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Bryan Hecht/Beacon Staff).

  • Pro-Israeli counter-protesters station themselves in front of the human chain, holding an Israeli flag and shouting statements at the crowd before being escorted away by police on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Rian Nelson/Beacon Staff).

  • Two protesters rest on each other as they settle in to sleep in the encampment during the quiet hours of early Saturday morning, April 27, 2024 (Rian Nelson/Beacon Staff).

  • A combination of BPD, NUPD, and State Police surrounds the encampment at 5:30 a.m. on orders from the university to clear it on Saturday, April 27, 2024. By 7 a.m., they began tearing down the encampment structure and making arrests. (Evelyn Stern/Courtesy)

  • Northeastern students set up their pro-Palestinian encampment in the circular lawn on the Centennial Common of campus. The slogan “ACAB” can be seen alongside other chalk markings on the memorial surrounding the American Flag on the Common where protesters relax during the last night and morning of the encampment on Saturday, April 27, 2024 (Bryan Hecht/Beacon Staff).

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About the Contributors
Bryan Hecht
Bryan Hecht, News Co-Editor
Bryan Hecht (he/him) is a freshman journalism major from Havertown, Pennsylvania. He currently serves as an assistant editor of The Berkeley Beacon News section. Bryan also contributes to WEBN Political Pulse and hopes one day to work in broadcast news media. As a member of the Emerson Cross Country team, Bryan can likely be found on a run around the Boston area when he's not writing for the Beacon.
Sam Shipman
Sam Shipman, Assistant News Editor
Sam Shipman (He/Him) is a freshman journalism major from Natick, Massachusetts. He currently is a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. When he's not reporting he can be found listening to music or spending time with friends.

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