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

‘Popular University Encampment’ enters day four

Iselin Bratz
Pro-Palestine encampment tents line 2B alley at Emerson College on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Iselin Bratz/Beacon Staff)

The Emerson Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)’s “Popular University Encampment” in 2 Boylston Alley continued to its fourth day on Wednesday, with students preparing for a risk of arrests that morning.

According to several SJP sources who spoke with the Beacon, “there is a risk of arrest” and “that risk grows the longer we are out here.”

Concerns over arrests came after the college emailed the community Tuesday evening announcing that they asked Windwalker Security staff to be present at the 2 Boylston Place so that “the Emerson community, members of the public, and our neighbors can have safe and consistent access to the alley, as required by law.”

At around 11:44 p.m. on Tuesday, at least two Emerson College Police Department officers were seen walking through the alley but did not approach protesters. Minutes later, they eventually exited through the dining hall entrance. No arrests were made last night.

Wednesday morning was tense as students began creating human barricades at the alley’s entrance and by the Massachusetts Transportation Center at around 10 a.m., particularly in response to Bernhardt’s email to the community at 9:38 a.m.

“Consistent with Emerson’s values and as a matter of principle, we support our community’s right to express their views through protest,” the email read. “However, they must do so in a manner consistent with the laws of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Our utmost priority is the safety and welfare of our community, and we are deeply concerned that the protesters are risking legal consequences beyond Emerson’s control when they do not abide by city and state laws.”

2B Alley is not solely owned by Emerson College and has a public right-of-way under the jurisdiction of the BPD and the Boston Fire Department (BFD), the email added. According to the email, BPD and BFD commissioners directly informed college officials that some protesters’ actions directly violate city ordinances, which “could result in imminent law enforcement action.” 

Specifically, the commissioners referred to the tents, which “violate city ordinances prohibiting tents in a public right-of-way.” 

They also noted alleged violations involving blocking pedestrian access to the alley, public noise violations, and ongoing reports of fire hazards posed by blocking doors and hydrants, the email said. The college said that they previously relayed this information to protesters on multiple occasions over several days, including in a meeting with students, staff, and faculty involved in the protest Monday evening when the college “offered the protesters the option of using The Loft to warm up overnight if they voluntarily removed the tents.”

Additionally, the email said that the college has received “credible reports that some protesters are engaging in targeted harassment and intimidation of Jewish supporters of Israel and students, staff, faculty, and neighbors seeking to pass through the alley.” 

The reports led to the addition of Windwalker Security staff at the encampments and options to request an escort from ECPD.

The email emphasized that the college “cannot prevent the enforcement of Boston city ordinances or Massachusetts state law.” 

“We strongly urge the protestors and their supporters to immediately comply with these laws to avoid legal consequences beyond the College’s authority or control,” the email said. 

Students called for an emergency walkout at around 11:30 a.m. to encourage more students to come to the encampments.

Few counter-protesters were present at the encampments on Wednesday, including one who approached protesters to ask “From which river to the sea?”

Dozens more protesters joined the encampment in preparation for possible arrests at around 1 p.m.

According to Amina Adeyola, a student protester, there were three paddy wagons and a cruiser stationed around the perimeter off of Boylston St. but eventually left the scene.

“We are here to get our demands met,” Adeyola said. “We’re not leaving until then.”

“We’re going to keep our people safe,” she added.

In an Emerson SJP Instagram post, Adeyola spoke in front of a crowd of other student protesters and local TV reporters, calling upon Mayor Michelle Wu and Bernhardt to “protect their constituents of color.” 

“What [Bernhardt] has reiterated constantly is that the alleyway is public property,” Adeyola said in her statement. “Under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Transit Authority. In that case, we recognize that it is more likely than not, it will be the Boston Police Department deployed to clear this area– not Emerson PD.” 

According to the post, there were eight state police cars outside the encampment at the time the statement was made. Adeyola called specifically upon Wu to protect students as they “face imminent danger and risk of intense harm at the hands of the police that she can choose not to deploy.” 

“Mayor Wu, we implore you to protect us, students of color under your jurisdiction,” she said. 

Police began to arrive outside the City Place exit of the Massachusetts Transportation Building at around 10:30 p.m., according to a Beacon reporter in the alley. In response, protesters tightened human chains on each exit to the alley, each containing about three rows of people.

At around 10:51 p.m., state police closed Massachusetts Transportation Station. Around 10 state officers were present inside. 

See our developing story to see how the arrests unfolded.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Nguyen
Hannah Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief
Hannah Nguyen (she/her) is a senior journalism major from North Wales, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in publications like The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, North Penn Now, Cambridge Day and AsAmNews. Outside of reporting, she enjoys thrifting and painting her nails. (see: https://linktr.ee/hannahcnguyen)

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