University Suspends Students After Officer Is ‘Physically Assaulted’ Responding To Pro-Palestinian Sit-In Protest

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Vanderbilt University suspended students taking part in a sit-in pro-Palestinian protest Tuesday after an officer on site was “assaulted.”

University officials decided in March to remove a petition from the student government ballot which was pushed by students to require the university to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) any goods and services from Israel, citing concerns about exposing “the university to potential fines and other risks,” according to The Vanderbilt Huslter, a student newspaper. As a result, students “breached” Kirkland Hall, which was closed for construction, and “physically assaulted a Community Service Officer” and “proceeded to push staff members who offered to meet with them,” Julie Jordan, senior media relations specialist for Vanderbilt, told the Daily Caller News Foundation (RELATED: Pro-Palestinian Protesters Destroy ‘Historic Painting’ In UK)

“Student Affairs staff took a graduated approach to de-escalate the situation. First, they asked students to leave. After the students refused to leave, the staff made them aware their actions violated university policy and that they would be subject to disciplinary action,” Jordan said. “After several hours, the university began issuing interim suspensions. Students on interim suspension must leave campus immediately and may not return until further notice, pending the Student Affairs review process.”

Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) allegedly arrived on the scene Wednesday morning and informed the protesters that they were trespassing, nearly a day after the protest began, according to the Vanderbilt Hustler. Several students were reportedly arrested by the VUPD, two for assault and bodily injury and two others who do not yet have charges listed.

The protest was organized to demand the university allow the student government to vote on the boycott proposal which had received 600 signatures, according to the Vanderbilt Hustler. Tennessee law, however, bars state contracts from going to companies and schools that participate in the BDS movements.

A spokesperson for VUPD told the DCNF that the situation is ongoing and declined to provide a comment.

Jordan told the DCNF that freedom of expression is “a core value at Vanderbilt” and that “peaceful demonstrations” have successfully taken place in the past, but that the “safety and well-being of our community is a top priority.”

“The university will take action when our policies are violated, the safety of our campus is jeopardized and when people intimidate or injure members of our community,” Jordan said.

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