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90 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at Dartmouth, college that drew rare kudos for its Oct. 7 response

A former chair of the Jewish studies department was thrown to the ground and arrested by state riot police during the showdown

(JTA) – A past chair of Dartmouth College’s Jewish studies department was thrown to the ground, handcuffed and reportedly arrested during a standoff with state riot police at the site of a campus pro-Palestinian encampment late Wednesday.

In video circulating on social media, historian Annelise Orleck can be seen being dragged to the ground by police and handcuffed following a harsh exchange of words. Ninety protesters were arrested in total as Dartmouth joined dozens of other colleges and universities across the United States in cracking down on their encampments.

“Those cops were brutal to me,” Orleck wrote on the social network X following her arrest. “I promise I did absolutely nothing wrong. I was standing with a line of women faculty in their 60s to 80s trying to protect our students. I have now been banned from the campus where I have taught for 34 years.” She also wrote that the cops “tried to hurt me. They did hurt me. And they seemed to enjoy it.”

Students at Dartmouth announced their intention to create an encampment on Wednesday, two weeks after the protest movement’s first encampment went up at Columbia University. Within an hour of the first tent going up, the students got an “arrest warning” from the school, and riot police arrived and began moving in an hour later, according to a timeline in the student newspaper. Orleck’s arrest took place about four hours into the showdown, which ended several hours later.

The escalation at Dartmouth was particularly notable for flying in the face of the public image the Ivy League school has cultivated since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

Many other schools — including fellow Ivies like Columbia and Harvard — have faced turmoil since the war’s start, including criticism from alumni alleging an inadequate response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and protests from students angry about Israel’s subsequent war on Hamas.

Dartmouth, on the other hand, heavily touted its efforts to cultivate civil dialogue about the conflict among students and faculty, in an approach that won the school a profile on “60 Minutes” and plaudits from the U.S. secretary of education. It is the only Ivy League university not to have had a federal discrimination investigation over antisemitism opened against it since Oct. 7.

In a statement Thursday morning, Dartmouth President Sian Bellock acknowledged that students and faculty were among those arrested. She defended the arrests, saying protesters had ignored the university’s attempts to broker a resolution.

“Protestors pitched a ‘Gaza Solidarity Encampment’ and physically prevented its removal despite multiple opportunities to avoid arrest,” Bellock wrote. She added, “Last night, people felt so strongly about their beliefs that they were willing to face disciplinary action and arrest. While there is bravery in that, part of choosing to engage in this way is not just acknowledging — but accepting — that actions have consequences.”

A Dartmouth spokesperson responded to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment on Orleck with Bellock’s general statement. Attempts to reach Orleck were not returned by press time; a Dartmouth magazine says the labor and gender-studies historian was appointed Jewish Studies chair in 2005. (She has published research on the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire of 1911, a galvanizing moment for Jewish labor.)

Jeff Sharlet, a bestselling author and fellow Jewish faculty member at Dartmouth, told JTA that he spotted state riot police at the protest even though the college said it only called in local police.

To Sharlet, the encampment on campus was an “inclusive” and non-objectionable protest that the school should have respected.

“They were not obstructing anything. There was no argument they were obstructing anything,” Sharlet said. “There wasn’t hate speech. Maybe there was, a few times, a ‘River to the sea’ chant.” He added, “If we get to the point where a few students chanting ‘From the river to the sea’ requires long guns on a college campus, that’s not good for us as Jews, as Americans, as educators of students.”

(Many Jews and Israelis view the phrase, a mainstay in pro-Palestinian protests, as a call for Israel’s destruction.)

Sharlet said Orleck had been videotaping the police and that an officer had grabbed her phone from her. Her attempts to ask for the phone back formed part of the exchange glimpsed in the video. Orleck was charged with resisting arrest and kept in handcuffs for an hour, he said. Police also arrested two Dartmouth student journalists.

Current Jewish Studies chair Susannah Heschel, who also observed the protests, said they had initially sprung up from a separate graduate student strike related to labor issues. Heschel, who has been a public face of Dartmouth’s Israel dialogue initiative, said that Orleck “intended to be arrested.”

“She put herself in the place where everyone was told, if you are in this place, we will arrest you,” Heschel told JTA. “And she stayed in that place, whereas others left.”

Heschel said the night’s unrest didn’t affect her outlook on Dartmouth’s ability to lead campus dialogue on Israel and Jewish issues and said the Jewish studies department remained immensely popular with students: “Show me another school where there’s a waiting list for Medieval Jewish History.”

Inspired by protests at Columbia, Gaza solidarity encampments have sprung up at campuses nationwide in the last few weeks and prompted all manner of concern from universities and Jewish groups. Hundreds of protesters have been arrested, while a small number of schools have struck deals with their activists that will see them make moves toward considering divestment from Israel and other concessions.

The campus remains safe for Jewish students, Sharlet said, adding that many Jews were a part of the protests. “I’m not an anti-Zionist. This is not ‘Jews versus protesters.’ I feel so strongly about this,” he said.

Heschel said she remained encouraged by Dartmouth’s role in the national dialogue.

“It’s like a marriage,” she said. “There may be times we have an argument. It doesn’t mean the marriage is over. We’re still doing what we want to do, which is teach our students to collaborate.”

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