Rye Police Help Make Arrests During pro-Palestinian Protest at SUNY Purchase

Videos posted to Twitter showed helicopters flying over a large student gathering, along with drones and dozens of police in riot gear. Several videos also showed people pinned to the ground by police.

Published May 11, 2024 4:17 PM
2 min read

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Two Rye Police officers were present at the arrest of nearly 70 people following a pro-Palestine protest at SUNY Purchase’s campus on Thursday evening. 

“We were part of that as part of the [Westchester County Police] Mutual Aid Plan,” Rye Public Safety Commissioner Michael Kopy said. The plan, he said, often is used when there is an event that local police “can’t handle themselves.”

In an email to students on Friday morning, SUNY Purchase President Milagros Peña said students had protested “peacefully for several hours” before police issued “multiple warnings” to disperse before making the arrests for trespassing after quiet hours began at 10 p.m. 

Peña said many of the arrests took place “without incident.”

“Our long-standing policies limit the time, place, and manner for protest, for good reason, and in support of our entire community,” he said. 

SUNY Purchase is one of many colleges and universities across the nation where police have been called in to interrupt pro-Palestinian protesters. The student move-ment is protesting Israel’s attack on Gaza, which health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza say has killed 34,000 people. That assault followed an attack by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 that killed more than 1,200 people in Israel. Another 252 people were abducted, with more than 130 believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

In response to President Peña’s email, the college’s faculty called the police action “violent and disproportionate.”

“The hostile actions of the university police and other law enforcement agencies on May 2nd have sent a chilling message that peaceful assembly may lead to undue punishment and violence, in blatant violation of core rights,” the faculty wrote in a letter. 

The faculty called for the charges against those arrested to be vacated, and any related disciplinary actions dropped. 

Videos posted to Twitter showed helicopters flying over a large student gathering, along with drones and dozens of police in riot gear. Several videos also showed people pinned to the ground by police.

Congressman Jamaal Bowman tweeted on Monday: “The violence students faced on SUNY Purchase campus is unacceptable.” He also called the SUNY’s involvement of local police “shameful.” 

SUNY Purchase police put out the call for support on Thursday night, Kopy said. Two Rye police officers attended a planning event on Thursday evening, and later that evening participated in the police response to the protest. Kopy said the call came because of “intelligence” that SUNY Purchase Police received on Thursday. 

The arrests were then under the jurisdiction of the requesting police force at SUNY Purchase, Kopy said. 

An encampment put up by protestors remained through the weekend, but was removed by police Sunday morning without arrests. 

A “Free-Speech Zone” on the campus’s Great Lawn has since been designated a protest location from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The student group behind the protest, Raise the Consciousness, said student and faculty representatives met with administrators on Monday afternoon to discuss protesters’ demands.

Protesters are demanding that the school divest from Israel, defense contractors, weapons manufacturers, and surveillance companies. It also wants administrators to label the deaths of 34,000 Palestinians — the number cited by the local Ministry of Health, which is controlled by Hamas — a genocide.

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