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

Students arraigned Wednesday receive community service for April 25 arrests

Nick Peace
Student arraignments take place at the Boston Municipal Court House on Wednesday, May 1, 2024, at 9 a.m. (Nick Peace for the Beacon).

Thirty protesters arrested on April 25 were arraigned on May 1 at 9 a.m. at the Boston Municipal Courthouse, just some of a series of arraignments since the encampment was disbanded by BPD

The court deemed the protest nonviolent, and those arrested received a pre-arraignment deal that required them to perform 40 hours of community service in exchange for a dismissal of the case and its removal from their criminal record. 

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) represented all the students arraigned who did not have outside personal legal counsel. The NLG is known for providing pro bono representation to political protesters and other activist groups. They had legal observers present at the April 25 encampment raid.

Most students received 40 hours of community service to be “authentically” completed by Sept. 18, where another court date would be set up to verify the service’s completion. Community service can be completed outside of Boston in the student’s home states and students are not required to be present at the courthouse on Sept. 18, so long as they do not receive any more charges.

The only outlier in the agreements reached was one student who was one of the 13 protesters arrested on March 22 outside the Cutler Majestic Theater, where President Jay Bernhardt’s inauguration ceremony took place. Having already received 40 hours of community service for that arrest, they were given an additional 40 hours for the new charge resulting in a total of 80 community service hours, both to be completed by September 18.

Without disclosing case information for specific students, Lee Goldstein, a lawyer from the NLG present in court today, said that any international students who were arrested would face “more serious charge[s] … [and] would risk immigration consequences.” The Beacon is not aware at this time of any international students who were arrested.

Rayan Afif, a protester who was arrested on March 22 and April 25, said that they are already required to complete 40 hours of community service for their first arrest as they await their second arraignment tomorrow.

Afif wore sunglasses to court on Wednesday on account of a concussion they said they sustained during the encampment raid of April 25, as they came out to show support for their fellow students and advocates who filled the hallway outside the courtroom.

While Afif said they are unsure of exactly how the concussion occurred, they recalled that it came after “[police] covered my eyes and my mouth and … lifted me off the ground.” Afif’s arm was also shaking uncontrollably, which they said is part of the full-body shakes they have been experiencing being arrested, which have also caused them to lose consciousness.

“I’ve been to the ER three times in the past few days since the arrest … they gave me other medicine while I was at the hospital to deal with [the shakes],” Afif said. 

They referred to the police conduct in the arrests as “absurd” and “dehumanizing.”

“It was completely mishandled. They should not have been throwing us around like that, covering our eyes and our mouth … blood is actively on their hands, on the college’s hands, on the state[‘s] hand[s], on everyone, anyone who has not spoken up, who never spoke up,” Afif said.  

Emerson students enter the Municipal Courthouse, on Wednesday, May 1, 2024 (Nick Peace for the Beacon).

NLG lawyers distributed injury report forms to those who had been arrested at the raid on April 25 as part of a potential case they may build against the Boston Police Department (BPD) with police misconduct charges as the predicate, according to Goldstein. The reports ask students to detail injuries ranging from bruising to more serious injuries. Afif reported their injuries on one of the forms.

“[The case] would be against individual police officers. And if [the actions resulted from] a policy of the BPD, it would be to the BPD. And if it were a policy of the city of Boston, it could also include the city of Boston as well,” Goldstein said, elaborating that any case would likely be built off of existing video evidence of the encampment raid. 

The eye-witness testimony of the legal observers from the Guild present at the arrests could also provide evidence in any potential criminal or civil cases moving forward, as Goldstein explained that being available as witnesses is part of the role these observers play.

There are several laws that can be applied to police action that protect both citizens and non-citizens of the United States. The “Police Misconduct Provision,” which falls under Federal Civil Enforcement laws, addresses cases where “excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, coercive sexual conduct, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests” are reported. If this were to be applied, the Department of Justice would have to show that the police department has an “unlawful policy” or that there was a constituted “pattern of unlawful conduct.”

Goldstein said there has also been conversation at the NLG about potential legal action being taken against media outlets like The Boston Herald’s Howie Carr for his op-ed about the encampment arrests, and against other outlets for publishing the unredacted names of arrested students.

In terms of prosecuting a case for the publishing of names, Goldstein said, “We would have to look at that, but it’s probably not actionable.”

At the arraignment, a letter from President Jay Bernhardt, Vice President and Provost Jan Robertss-Breslin, and Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe was read into the record by NLG representatives. The letter explained that the college does not “wish for any charges to be pursued in connection with the violation of the public camping ordinance” and that the outcome of the hearing “be focused on teaching and learning.”

In response to the reading, Benjamin Brooks Esq., the judge assigned to conduct the arraignments, stated that the court has no control over what charges are brought to it. The NLG representative responded that they simply wanted the statement to be reflected in the record.

Kate W., a Suffolk student who was among those arrested, said she was not convinced by the letter, saying that it “felt like it was too little too late,” and that “[it] was only a thing because people were upset with Jay Bernhart and the entire administration.” Kate refrained from having her last name on record as Suffolk University has not yet commented on whether disciplinary actions will be taken on students involved in the protests or within their branch of the Students for Justice in Palestine.

Kate W. told Beacon reporters that she and many others plan to do community service with groups, such as The Muslim Justice League, and other similar groups related to Palestine or other justice groups. 

While content with the service hours given, Kate W. was still frustrated by the principle of the punishment. 

“What was happening that night was a form of community service, and for that to be the reason that you get your charges … we were doing that anyway,” she said.

An arraigned student who asked to remain anonymous said that though they were happy with how quick the arraignment process was, they wished more time had been allocated for students to share their arrest experiences.

“A lot of people were brutalized by the police, so I feel like it’s kind of important that their stories get told anywhere that they can. Whether or not it’s like in the courthouse or just like at meetings with the president, like the one at the town hall the other day,” they said.

The anonymous student said that the community service requirement was the outcome they were hoping for and added that “[it’s] especially nice that I get to do the community hours not in Boston because that would have really stressed me out being like a college student [who is leaving for the summer].”

As the semester ends and Emerson students return home all around the country, the anonymous student recommended that people attend encampments at schools in their local areas or get involved with community programs to continue the pro-Palestine cause off-campus so they can “be ready to come back in the fall, with the same energy that we have now.”

Atalanta Carrig-Braun, an arrested protester arraigned Wednesday, described her court experience as “very anticlimactic.”

“They really just use this to get activists away from activism … to take up people’s time to try to scare people, [and] to get all of us away from doing activism,” said Carrig-Braun, who plans to do community service at a social justice music camp back home in Los Angeles. “I already volunteer there, so I’m probably going to put that towards this because it’s something that’s for a community that I really care about and does a lot for a lot of kids.”

Carrig-Braun said that though they feel “lucky to not have worse stuff to deal with,” all charges should have been dismissed in the cases and that the courts “use this against people advocating for things that are important.”

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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.
Iselin Bratz
Iselin Bratz, Kasteel Well Bureau Co-Editor

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