Brown University drops charges against 20 Jewish students arrested in peaceful sit-in protest

The University urged Providence’s City Solicitor’s Office to drop the charges against 20 Jewish students who were arrested after staging a sit-in at University Hall earlier this month, according to President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 in a statement to The Herald. The city has agreed to dismiss the charges, according to the University.

The students, who are members of BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now, were due for arraignment on charges of willful trespass. They will still face the University’s disciplinary process, Paxson said. The students have been informed that the charges have been dropped and they are not required to appear in court tomorrow, based on a University statement.

“While we are relieved our peers are no longer risking criminal charges, this is far from the end of our fight,” JFCN organizers said in a statement.

The decision to drop the charges followed the shooting of three Palestinian college students, including Hisham Awartani ’25, in Vermont Saturday evening. All three students are in stable condition, The Herald previously reported.

“My hope is it will help refocus attention on issues that are important to us as a community” instead of being “distracted by other things that are divisive,” Paxson said.

JCFN Organizers wrote that they “reject that our fight for divestment and ceasefire is a distraction from the issues that are important to this community. Our struggle is entwined with the Palestinian struggle for liberation: to divest is to protect Palestinian students.”

The 20 arrested students refused to voluntarily leave University Hall on Nov. 8 until Paxson agreed to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and commit to divesting the University’s endowment from “companies that enable war crimes in Gaza,” The Herald previously reported.

“Neither our sit-in demands nor the demands of SJP and PSC have been met,” JCFN’s statement continues. “Our university has remained steadfast in its refusal to heed the most simple call from the students it claims to represent: to divest from companies profiting from the genocide in Gaza.”

Paxson noted that the decision was made based on current circumstances on campus and that the University does not consider the decision as precedent. “I do want to stress that University Hall does not have 24-hour access, and we take trespass seriously and we will continue to do that in the future,” Paxson said.

“We are devastated and outraged at the hateful shooting of our Palestinian friend and classmate, Hisham Awartani,” reads the JCFN statement. “This violence so close to home emphasizes once more how important it is that Brown commits to protecting its Palestinian and Arab students in this moment of rising Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian hatred — not with empty words, but with divestment and calls for ceasefire.”

“The vicious attack against one of our students over the weekend is reverberating across campus,” a University statement read. “It has shaken some of our community members deeply, while others are struggling to process what this means, not only for our campus, but for this country and world that we all live in. There is so much confusion, fear and anger being felt right now that we feel this is a time to bring our community together and try to set aside issues that are exacerbating tensions and division on our campus.”

Following the Nov. 8 arrests, several student organizations on campus and hundreds of faculty members called upon the University to drop the charges against the arrested students. Alumni also criticized the University for the arrests, stating they set “a dangerous precedent and go against Brown’s long-held tradition of campus activism,” The Herald previously reported.

“We want to reduce tensions on campus, and certainly the attack on the students has helped to elevate tensions,” Paxson said.

In a campus-wide message shared Sunday evening about the Vermont shooting, Paxson invited community members to attend a vigil Monday afternoon that is closed to the public. Organized by the University Chaplain’s Office, the vigil aimed to “bring our community together during this difficult time,” according to the message.

“Dismissing the charges against the students certainly won’t heal the rising tensions on campus from the ongoing violence in the Middle East — or the hurt and fear from Islamophobia, antisemitism and acts of anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian violence,” the University’s statement reads.

“We really need to recenter ourselves as a community in being kind and respectful to each other,” Paxson told The Herald. “I hope that the vigil will help us move in that direction.”

“We will not forget the arrests or the way the University continues to fail to keep its students — especially its most vulnerable students — safe,” JFCN organizers wrote. “The dropping of charges cannot be a distraction from the broader struggle for Palestinian liberation we join in.”

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Last updated on Nov. 28 at 1:01 a.m.

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Sam Levine

Sam Levine is a University News editor from Brooklyn, New York overseeing the staff and student labor and on-campus activism beats. He is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs.


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