Law enforcement arrested 28 individuals, including 20 Emory University community members, during this morning’s pro-Palestine encampment on the Quadrangle, Emory Vice President for Public Safety Cheryl Elliott wrote in a University-wide email this evening.

“We are working with responding agencies to expedite the release of any Emory community members who remain in custody,” Elliott wrote. “Our primary goal today was clearing the Quad of a disruptive encampment while holding individuals accountable to the law.”

The Emory Police Department (EPD), assisted by officers from the Atlanta Police Department (APD) and Georgia State Patrol, began detaining protestors around 10:15 a.m. The officers deployed irritant gas and tased at least one individual on the University’s Quad. 

Elliott wrote that the arrests came after EPD warned protestors “multiple” times that they were trespassing on University property and needed to vacate the area. EPD had previously concluded that the protestors were not members of the Emory community after they declined to confirm their affiliation with the University and allegedly “ignored and pushed past EPD officers” to set up the event on the Quad.

Equipment and materials for Emory’s upcoming commencement ceremony were already sitting on the area of the Quad protestors used for the encampment, Elliott added.

A police officer arrests a protestor during the April 25 “Gaza solidarity encampment.” (Jack Rutherford/News Editor)

Philosophy Department Chair Noelle McAfee was among those detained at the protest. In a video posted to social media, McAfee told the person filming to call the philosophy department and “tell them I’ve been arrested.”

In a public statement this afternoon, Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.) thanked law enforcement for their response. 

“Just as we have always done in the past, we will respect the right to peacefully protest, but those who choose to make the unwise decision to use our college campuses to intimidate, make threats, promote violence, or in any other way break the law will be met with the full force of the law and brought to justice,” Kemp wrote.

Ilya Nemenman, Samuel Candler Dobbs professor of physics and chair of the University Senate’s Open Expression Committee, said that the protest appeared to violate Emory’s Respect for Open Expression Policy, given the information he had at the moment. 

“This is not a protest that will be protected by the policy,” Nemenman said.

Georgia’s Attorney General Christopher Carr (R-Ga.) also took to social media to express his support of the police response. 

We will proudly stand by any university that takes action to protect the health and safety of Georgia’s students,” Carr wrote. “Nobody has the legal right to shut down our schools by camping out and making antisemitic threats.

While Kemp and Carr applauded the law enforcement response, the University’s reaction has drawn sharp criticism from some elected officials and human rights organizations in the state, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia.

In a press release, the organization stated that they were concerned about the detainment of protestors at Emory and said “the freedom to protest without retribution is essential to our democracy.”

“The ACLU of Georgia is closely watching the current protests on college campuses across the state,” the organization wrote. “Colleges and universities should be places where viewpoints, expression, debate, and free speech are encouraged, not suppressed.”

Additionally, a group of Georgia legislators signed on to a letter this afternoon, demanding that state police “immediately deescalate and prevent further harm.” The 11 state representatives denounced the officers’ use of “excessive force” on the protesters.

“The use of extreme anti-riot tactics by Georgia State Patrol, including tasers and gas, is a dangerous escalation to protests which were by all accounts peaceful and nonviolent,” the letter reads. 

One of the signees, Georgia House Rep. Ruwa Romman (D-97), wrote in a social media post that the legislature “cannot allow this dangerous repression to continue.”

“Regardless of one’s views on this or any other issue, there is no justification for this kind of excessive force,” Romman wrote. 

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators organized similar protests at Kennesaw State University (Ga.), Northeastern University (Mass.) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) today. Organizers at Columbia University’s (N.Y.)“Gaza Solidarity Encampment” are entering their eighth day of protest. 

Georgia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Gerald Griggs (00C) wrote in a post on social media this afternoon that he is “requesting a meeting with the President of the University to discuss the events on the campus as soon as possible.”

Protestors continued to organize on Emory’s Quad after these arrests, playing music, dancing and giving speeches in front of Convocation Hall. As of 6:45 p.m., hundreds of people were still occupying the space in protest. 

Jack Rutherford (27C) contributed reporting.

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Sarah Davis (22Ox, 24C) is a co-Editor-in-Chief of the Wheel. Previously, she interned with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Covington News and Austin Monthly Magazine. In her free time, you can find her exploring new running trails and coffee shops around the city.

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Madi Olivier is from Highland Village, Texas, and is majoring in psychology and minoring in rhetoric, writing and information design. Outside of the Wheel, she is involved in psychology research and works for the Trevor Project. In her free time, you can find her trying not to fall while bouldering and watching Criminal Minds with her cat.