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Violent Arrest of Emory Professor Spotlights Brutality of Police Crackdown on Campus Protests

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“To sustain this level of blind support for Israel, the U.S. must erode its own democracy,” said one foreign policy expert. “And that is what we see happening on U.S. campuses now.”

Emory University economics professor Caroline Fohlin approached several police officers who were holding a student down on the ground on Thursday and demanded an explanation—but by the end of the day videos of her own arrest became some of the most widely circulated images of the rapidly spreading anti-war movement on college campuses across the U.S.

As she knelt down to ask the university officers, “What are you doing?” another law enforcement agent grabbed her arm and pushed her away before repeatedly ordering her to “get on the ground.”

“Stop it!” Fohlin yelled before the officer pushed her to the ground and called for more police to help subdue her.

Fohlin then screamed, “Oh my God!” as the police pushed her down and told the police that she was a professor at the university as they held her on the ground.

Fohlin’s arrest—after which she was detained for 11 hours and then charged with “battery of a police officer”—came a week after Columbia University suspended more than 100 students for setting up an encampment in solidarity with Gaza, where more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed by the U.S.-backed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since October, and allowed police to arrest them. The mass arrests only served to galvanize students and faculty at Columbia and at dozens of other schools, with more than 400 peoplebeing detained so far.

The American Association of University Professors called the arrest “antithetical to the mission of higher education.”

“Our institutions exist to foster robust exchanges of ideas and open dialogue in service of knowledge and understanding,” said the group. “Sometimes that includes open dissent. Peaceful campus protests should never be met with violence.”

Foreign policy expert Trita Parsi suggested that Fohlin’s arrest was among the on-campus incidents that have strained the Democratic Party’s argument that “democracy is on the ballot in November.”

“To sustain this level of blind support for Israel, the U.S. must erode its own democracy. And that is what we see happening on U.S. campuses now,” said Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, sharing a video of police tasing an Emory student who was already being held down on the ground.

Emil’ Keme, a professor of English and Indigenous studies at Emory, toldDemocracy Now! on Friday that the scene on campus resembled “a war zone,” especially after university and Atlanta police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters.

“I started feeling the tear gas, and I held arms with some people,” he said. “We were being pushed back out of the encampment. And the student I was holding arms with, she was then arrested and the next thing I knew I was on the floor and I was being arrested.”

Writer Abdullah Shihipar said Emory president Gregory Fenves—and all university administrators who have allowed the arrest of students who have peacefully protested, including several who have unilaterally altered school codes in order to ban protests—should resign.

“It has been a disgusting and embarrassing week for higher education,” said Shihipar.

The crackdown on Emory students and faculty came a day after Texas state troopers descended on the University of Texas at Austin campus, some on horseback, and clamped down on a student walkout there, arresting more than 50 protesters.

Also on Thursday, students at Indiana University and Ohio State University (OSU)—where more than 30 and a dozen students were arrested, respectively—reported seeing snipers stationed on the rooftops of campus buildings, which an Ohio State representative denied.

The Biden administration has not directly addressed the protests or their demands since Monday, when President Joe Biden suggested the nationwide student uprising is “antisemitic.”

“The use of state violence against peaceful protestors is unacceptable,” said Sara Haghdoosti, executive director of Win Without War. “Police batons deployed against students calling for peace in Gaza are not a source of safety on campus, nor are they a bulwark against antisemitism. They hurt people, impinge on fundamental liberties, and serve an extreme right-wing agenda that threatens Jews, Muslims, and the right to protest across the country. University leaders and government officials must take steps to protect students exercising their right to protest, not enlist police to attack them.”

“Antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry are on the rise and serious issues nationwide, including on college campuses,” continued Haghdoosti. “The people endangered by these scourges deserve better than to be the targets of cynical political ploys or to be used as excuses for violent repression. No one is made safer by police violence, and politicians who say otherwise are only attempting to sow division for their own reprehensible ends. What we need from our leaders right now is to de-escalate, permit protests, and not allow state violence against people exercising their fundamental rights.”

Irene Khan, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said Thursday that the protests spreading across the U.S. and internationally are a sign that “the Gaza crisis is truly becoming a global crisis of the freedom of expression.”

“Legitimate speech must be protected,” Khan said Thursday, “but, unfortunately, there is a hysteria that is taking hold in the U.S.”

“We must not mix [antisemitism] up with criticism of Israel as a political entity, as a state,” she added. “Criticizing Israel is perfectly legitimate under international law.”


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