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Police break up Palestinian solidarity protests, arrest dozens at Dartmouth, UNH

This is a developing story. We will update it as more details are confirmed.

Officers with the New Hampshire State Police and local police departments arrested more than 100 protesters at Dartmouth College and the University of New Hampshire Wednesday night, after groups on both campuses tried to set up encampments protesting Israel’s war in Gaza.

The Hanover Police Department said in a release Thursday morning that 90 people were arrested at the Dartmouth protest for multiple offenses, including criminal trespass and resisting arrest. Police say people not affiliated with Dartmouth were among those they arrested.

Police also arrested 12 people — 10 students and two people "not affiliated with the university" — at UNH Wednesday, according to a statement from a university spokesperson.

The move comes six months after Dartmouth College administrators arrested two students for an earlier Palestinian solidarity protest, and as students across the country mount similar demonstrations, many of which have also been met with strong police response.

In a statement provided to NHPR late Wednesday night, a New Hampshire State Police spokesperson said they "deployed personnel and various resources to the University of New Hampshire and Dartmouth College campuses in response to illegal activity and at the request of local law enforcement."

The Dartmouth encampment Wednesday evening followed a planned “Labor for Liberation Celebration” earlier in the day, coordinated by a mix of campus and community activists to highlight what they called “the interconnected liberation struggles of Palestinians and workers around the world, Including those right here at Dartmouth and in the Upper Valley.” Shortly after that event wrapped up, a group of protesters started setting up tents on the main college lawn, in the center of Hanover. Some gave speeches, waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Divest Not Arrest.” A group of students also encircled the encampment, mirroring a move seen on other campuses meant to make it more difficult for police to reach the protesters in tents inside.

Ahead of Wednesday’s demonstration, Dartmouth officials warned that student protesters could face sanctions or arrest. In a message sent to the campus community Wednesday afternoon, Provost David F. Kotz said school policies “specifically prohibit the use of tents and encampments on the Green and other areas of campus.”

“Students, employees, and organizations in violation of Dartmouth policies or local laws will be immediately subject to Dartmouth’s disciplinary processes, which could include separation and expulsion,” Kotz wrote. “Students and employees violating local laws may also be subject to law enforcement action based on Hanover ordinances.”

Police, many wearing riot gear, were lined up on the perimeter from the start of Wednesday evening’s rally. As protesters began setting up tents, campus security officers passed out fliers notifying participants that they were violating school rules and ordering them to “cease the disruption immediately.” The fliers included a list of “allowable activities” (which included “speech,” “expressing viewpoints” and “holding signs in hands”) as well as “prohibited items and activities” (which included “amplified sound,” “tents of any kind,” “demonstrations inside buildings” and “sleeping”).

Around 8 p.m., after campus security and Hanover police unsuccessfully ordered the gathering to disband, a group of state police in riot gear appeared on the scene. By 8:20 p.m., state police told students they had 10 minutes to vacate. Around 8:30 p.m., police again offered students five more minutes to clear the area. Shortly before 8:40 p.m., police declared that students were engaged in an unlawful assembly and ordered protesters to disperse.

They moved closer to students, and as of 9:20 p.m. it appeared as though police were starting to arrest people, though it wasn’t immediately clear how many.

Shortly before 11 p.m., The Dartmouth student newspaper reported that four of the five tents set up at the encampment had been removed and "at least 25 protesters have been detained on the Green, including two staff members from The Dartmouth and history professor." (The paper later reported that the two student journalists were covering the protest for The Dartmouth at the time of their arrests.)

As the demonstration progressed, protesters shifted into chants of “There’s no riot here, why are you in riot gear?” They also called out Dartmouth President Sian Beilock for the university’s decision to arrest students during the protests last fall, chanting, “Beilock, Beilock drop the case, you can’t even show your face.”

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, the ACLU of New Hampshire condemned the arrests, saying they were "highly concerned" by initial reports of the police response at Dartmouth and the University of New Hampshire.

“Use of police force against protestors should never be a first resort," the organization said. “Freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate are foundational principles of democracy and core constitutional rights. We urge university and government leaders to create environments that safeguard constitutionally protected speech."

A spokesperson for the state police said Wednesday night that its officers are "committed to protecting the constitutional rights of Granite Staters while also ensuring those who violate the law are held accountable."

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Updated: May 1, 2024 at 10:54 PM EDT
Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.