Tuesday morning — when 20 Jewish students arrested at a Nov. 8 sit-in were scheduled to be arraigned until the University dropped charges against them — roughly 150 community members assembled for a gathering organized by BrownU Jews for Ceasefire Now.
In front of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center, members of JFCN, Brown University Palestine Solidarity Caucus and Brown Students for Justice in Palestine shared personal stories, reflected on the arrests of 20 JFCN members and called on the University to divest from companies affiliated with Israel.
Before Brown requested that the City Solicitor’s Office drop charges Monday afternoon — canceling the arraignment — JFCN had planned to organize community members to attend the scheduled arraignment according to a Nov. 27 Instagram post that was later updated after the charges were dropped.
The students were arrested and charged with willful trespass during a Nov. 8 sit-in at University Hall. At the sit-in, students demanded that the University call for a ceasefire in Gaza and that President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 “support a divestment resolution in the next meeting of the Brown Corporation.
At the Tuesday rally, attendees held signs that read “Not In Our Name,” “Ceasefire Now,” “Jews Say No War on Gaza” and “Divest Now,” among other messages.
Members of JFCN invited attendees to sit down around the Campus Center steps to discuss the implications of the dropped charges and “how to move forward,” said Lily Gardner ’26.
“We’re excited that we don’t currently have to be at the courthouse,” she added. “It’s a good day.”
“ ‘Charges dropped is not a triumph; it is a prerequisite,’ ” said Edie Fine ’25. “We remain steadfast in our condemnation of a university that would seek police detainment on their students for peacefully protesting.”
Fine quoted from the University’s statement on dropping the charges: “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 divisions on our campus.”
“We will not be set aside,” Fine said. “We reject this narrative that we are in this fight at the expense of the Brown community.”
University Spokesperson Amanda McGregor previously wrote in an email to The Herald that “the students were arrested Nov. 8 for refusing to leave University Hall, where their presence after operating hours posed security concerns, not for the content of their protest.” Paxson emphasized that despite dropping the charges, the University did not consider the decision a precedent.
Speakers also addressed the shooting of three Palestinian college students last Saturday in Burlington, Vermont. Kinnan Abdalhamid, Tahseen Ali Ahmad and Brown junior Hisham Awartani ’25 sustained serious injuries, The Herald previously reported. All three are in stable condition.
JFCN speaker Rafael Ash ’26 led the group in song and prayer dedicated to “Hisham, his friends and the lives lost in Gaza.”
“I thank Hisham for teaching us life and integrity and love even from a hospital bed,” said Sherena Razek GS, an organizer with Brown PSC. “We have much to learn from him.”
“The University administrators tell us that this issue is barred from us, that this doesn't impact us,” Razek continued. “But a student at Brown was shot. Is that proof enough that this does impact us?”
“We join over a decade of calls for divestment from companies materially supplying the Israeli occupation,” she added. “The university has ignored these calls, arrested student protesters, and perpetuated a false narrative of necessary institutional neutrality while materially investing in genocide.”
Independent human rights experts from the United Nations have warned of the “risk of genocide” in Gaza due to Israel’s military response following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks.
Razek said she met with Paxson, Awartani and 10 other students five weeks ago. “We said, ‘This mass dehumanization of Palestinian life will come back and it will get us personally.’ ”
“The president and other University leaders have engaged with a multitude of students, faculty and staff over the past several weeks — and continue to do so — in ways that are significant and important to directly commit to care and support amid the acknowledged increase in discrimination and threats of violence across the nation and around the world,” Senior Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt previously wrote in an email to The Herald.
monique jonath ’24 called on fellow Jewish students — especially white Jewish students — to “use your position to be explicit … and to remember the importance of working in coalition with those whose identities and experiences differ.”
“As it relates to statements and petitions and online demands,” McGregor previously wrote in an email to The Herald, “the University remains committed to engaging directly with students, faculty and staff who are in touch with the University to share their ideas or concerns, and we do so routinely.”
“Brown leaders have met with many student groups in recent weeks to listen to and address concerns, and we will continue to do so moving forward,” McGregor added.
Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media Ariella Azoulay also joined the gathering.
“It was inspiring to listen to those dissident Jewish students reclaiming their place in this world as Jews and drawing on Jewish histories and memories which are longer than those Zionism created, in order to struggle for the right thing — free Palestine,” Azoulay wrote in an email to The Herald.
“We can never afford to be depoliticized and we can never depoliticize actions in the past,” Ash said. “We will do well in retrospect … In 20 years, I'm sure there will be a library (archive) about all of us.”
Tom Li is a Metro Editor covering the Health & Environment and Development & Infrastructure beats. He is from Pleasanton, California, and is concentrating in Economics, International & Public Affairs and French & Francophone Studies. He is an avid RIPTA enthusiast and enjoys taking (and criticizing) personality tests in his free time.
Julia Vaz is a Metro editor covering the environment and crime and justice beats. She is a sophomore from Brazil studying Political Science and Literary Arts.