Second pro-Palestine protest at UB this week ends peacefully

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) — Crackdowns on college campus protests against the war between Israel and Hamas continue. Here at home, the second protest just this week at UB North ended peacefully Friday.

This comes just days after more than a dozen people were arrested at a demonstration there on Wednesday. Hundreds of pro-Palestine protestors marched around campus claiming there was police brutality during the first protest Wednesday.

“It ended with a prayer before police surrounded everyone and started attempting to massively arrest people. So, I would say it was peaceful and police officers that were called in by administration made it aggressive and brutal,” said one UB student protestor.

Around 400 pro-Palestine protesters, lead by the UB Chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, gathered at UB north campus Friday afternoon. Just two days before, 15 people, 10 not from the university, were arrested and two officers were assaulted following a demonstration.

“None of these students intended to do any damage, none of these students intended to violate any law and most of them, when they were told to leave, they left! We were surprised why they were arrested. Those who wanted to stay there and get arrested, they got arrested. That’s their call,” said UB faculty member and community activist Husam Ghanim.

In contrast, Friday’s protest was peaceful with no reported arrests despite having more people than Wednesday’s. Hundreds gathered in front of Capen Hall before marching through campus, calling for the University to divest from Israel, also demonstrating a response to Wednesday’s show of force.

“50, 60 protestors. There are 200 officers. And it was overkill. It was unnecessary because it makes it very provocative when people are rallied up,” added Faizan Haq, the founding president of the WNY Muslims organization.

Law enforcement were on standby Friday. UB released a statement saying, “police learned that outside protestors were planning to occupy UB buildings on Friday.” As a precaution, they closed several campus buildings and roads before the protest began. They also turned away individuals attempting to enter the campus in cars with camping equipment.

In multiple other statements, UB has said they are committed to a welcoming, inclusive, respectful and safe environment. Still some students tell me they don’t feel safe, which is affecting their studies.

“I’ve been getting hate comments and threats due to a video that was created. I’m scared to be on campus right now. I don’t put headphones in anymore and I always have to look behind my shoulder now,” said UB senior Brandon Meyer.  

In response pro-Israel supporters are holding a march to stop Jewish hatred at UB north on Monday followed by an antisemitism student panel to hear their stories of discrimination firsthand.

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Dillon Morello is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has been part of the News 4 team since September of 2023. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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