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Court arraignment day one: 20 sit-in demonstrators plead not guilty to willful trespassing

Pretrial date set for March 5, 2024, 21 remaining students to be arraigned

The 41 students, who are affiliated with Brown Divest Coalition, were arrested following a sit-in demanding that Paxson divest from companies tied to “Israeli military occupation.”
The 41 students, who are affiliated with Brown Divest Coalition, were arrested following a sit-in demanding that Paxson divest from companies tied to “Israeli military occupation.”

Twenty of the 41 students arrested at a Dec. 11 University Hall sit-in for divestment and ceasefire were arraigned at 9 a.m. Monday. The students pleaded not guilty to “willful trespassing within school buildings” and received a pretrial conference date of March 5. 

The 41 students, who are affiliated with Brown Divest Coalition, were arrested following a sit-in demanding that President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 support a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Palestine war and divest from companies tied to “Israeli military occupation.” The remaining 21 students are scheduled to be arraigned on Wednesday at 9 a.m.

An hour before the arraignment, approximately 60 students, faculty and staff members gathered on the Main Green in support of the students who were arrested. The group then walked to the Providence 6th Division District Court, where the arraignment took place.

Gabriela Venegas-Ramirez ’26, one of the 20 students arraigned Monday, said this support made the morning much more “doable.”

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At an Undergraduate Council of Students town hall last November, University Investment Office officials said that Brown does not “directly invest in any weapons manufacturers” or companies with direct ties to Israel. A large portion of the endowment is invested in external managers with undisclosed, confidential portfolios. 

University Spokesperson Brian Clark previously wrote to The Herald that the University is “confident that our external managers have the highest level of ethics and share the values of the Brown community, including the rejection of violence.”

At the arraignment, the students were granted permission to travel out of state, and all students agreed to return to court for future proceedings and give up the right to an extradition trial in their home state. Students also received a personal recognizance set at $1000 — a release without bail unless they fail to make future court dates.

“It makes me sad that Brown has chosen to pursue this course of action, and I hope that it will change,” said Kate Kuli ’25, one of the students arraigned Monday. 

On Nov. 28, Brown dropped similar trespassing charges against 20 Jewish students arrested in a Nov. 8 sit-in. The decision came after the shooting of three Palestinian college students, including Hisham Awartani ’25, on Nov. 26. Paxson cited “tensions on campus” as a factor for dropping the charges.

A letter writing campaign organized by the Graduate Labor Organization’s Palestine Solidarity Caucus sent around 14,000 letters calling on the University to drop the charges against the 41 students and divest from “companies that facilitate violence against Palestinians.”

“We’re going to continue with this court case and persist that we are not guilty of these charges,” BDC Spokesperson Jo Ouyang ’26 said in an interview with The Herald. “Our lawyer will go to trial on behalf of all 41 of us.” 

Isabella Garo ’24, who was also arraigned today, noted that the cohort of 41 students is more racially diverse than the first 20 students who were arrested. “It's also concerning that we have one group (that) did not have to navigate the system and another group that is much more racially diverse is still being subjected to the system,” she said. 

Clark pushed back against implications of racial bias. “Respectfully, this is a disingenuous claim,” Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. “At multiple points on Dec. 11, both verbally and in writing, University leaders made abundantly clear to the students that, while arresting students is not an action that Brown takes lightly, Brown would proceed with arrests and criminal charges if they chose not to leave the building after 5 p.m.” 

“Students made their choices with a very clear understanding of the implications,” he added.

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“I see (the trial) as a distraction from what really matters,” Garo said. “There's no punishment that Brown could concoct for me that would make me regret protesting on behalf of Palestinian human rights and freedom.”

Kuli emphasized that she would continue to “pressure the University” on divestment and Palestine. “This movement is so much larger than the 41 of us,” she said.

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Ryan Doherty

Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.


Avani Ghosh

Avani Ghosh is a Metro Editor covering politics & justice and community & activism. She is a sophomore from Ohio studying Health & Human Biology and International & Public Affairs. She is an avid earl grey enthusiast and can be found making tea in her free time.



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