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Purchase Responds to Police Raid of Peaceful Protest

Updated: May 10

By: Barbara Kay, Jennifer Ward, Thomas Dachik, Arlenis Marmolejos, Natalie Tulloch and Brandon Cruz

Six Phoenix reporters were present at the time of these events.

Police arrest a student peacefully protesting. (Photo by: Arlenis Marmolejos.)

One day after the peaceful Pro-Palestinian protest that turned violent by an overwhelming number of aggressive police officers, the Purchase College faculty met in an executive session to condemn the administration and police’s treatment of protestors, including students and faculty. 

“Our students were participating in a peaceful protest on campus - an act protected by their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly,” wrote the faculty at large in a letter to President Milly Peña, which was circulated to the entire campus community. “Our faculty members were present solely to ensure the safety of students and observe their non-disruptive demonstration. Despite this, a staggering number of over 70 students and faculty were arrested after police violently intervened and disrupted the lawful gathering.” 

In an email sent to the community more than 12 hours after the raid, Peña misconstrued several details pertaining to the previous day’s turn of events. She alluded to there being “dozens of non-affiliated people” who attempted to join the protest but were turned away. “Their presence put the police on high alert,” Peña wrote. “It is believed many of them snuck back onto campus once turned away.” 

In fact, officers required all people without a More card to leave the Quad, and yet arrested students and four faculty members for trespassing, although most lived on campus. 

Leftover belongings from protestors after the police raided. (Photo by: Natalie Tulloch)

Peña’s email also implied that the police were called in after the fire alarms in the dorm buildings were set off, even though the alarms began to ring half an hour after the officers arrived. 

“The students were completely quiet,” said an observer. “The fire alarms did not start until after the police started busting up. I’ve never seen this kind of police tactic before. There was a desire to arrest everyone in sight.” 

After officers arrested protesters, hundreds of students left their dorms and formed another human barricade, as officers took control of the Quad. 

Senior psychology major Kelly Gleeson, who was at the scene but wasn’t arrested herself, saw a number of others arrested. “It was incredibly traumatizing on all ends,” Gleeson said.

Gleeson said she admired her fellow seniors risking their graduation to join the protest.

“Being so selfless to put yourself out on the line is such an incredible feat,” Gleeson said. 

Students lined the surrounding area of the Quad, were on the hill, and gathered between Outback and Wayback. They ran as more than a dozen more officers came down the stairs with batons.

“I’ve never seen this level of violence against people doing so little,” said another observer.

Police arresting a student who was peacefully protesting. (Photo by: Arlenis Marmolejos)

Reporters on the scene witnessed officers dragging and tackling protesters to the ground. In all more than 70 students and four faculty were arrested and spent several hours in jails around Westchester County.

“This is the worst I have ever felt being part of the Purchase College Community,” said Faculty Presiding Officer Andrew Salomon.

Salomon also opened up about new information he was given regarding alleged shared private information between Purchase Human Resources and the Police. This includes an incident regarding an arrested faculty member whose former address was shared with the police by an outside source.

Police arresting a student who was peacefully protesting. (Photo by: Arlenis Marmolejos)

“It is a deeply troubling aspect to an already troubling series of events,” Salomon said. “Trust has been broken, and now needs to be rebuilt.”

The faculty letter called for “immediate and decisive action” on behalf of administration and to vacate charges against those arrested, and any disciplinary actions dropped. “We demand an immediate outside and independent investigation into all aspects of this incident, particularly the excessive use of police force, to ensure full accountability. Swift and thorough corrective measures, including resignations of those culpable for the infringement of student and faculty civil liberties and rights, are imperative to begin healing these wounds and reaffirming our institution's commitment to its integral rights and liberties.”

Students follow police aas they pull out of campus. (Photo by: Natalie Tulloch)

© The Purchase Phoenix, 2024



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