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MIT, Emerson College, Tufts students start pro-Palestinian camps inspired by Columbia University protests

Jewish students feel threatened by pro-Palestinian protests on Massachusetts campuses
Jewish students feel threatened by pro-Palestinian protests on Massachusetts campuses 02:42

BOSTON - Inspired by protests at Columbia University, pro-Palestinian camps have been set up at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University and Emerson College.

Dozens of students put up tents at the campuses in Cambridge, Medford and Boston Sunday night to protest the Israel-Hamas war.

What is happening at Columbia University?

More than 100 people have been arrested at Columbia since protests started there last Wednesday. The pro-Palestinian demonstrators want the university to divest from Israel and they've criticized the school's response to the war. Jewish students at Columbia say they believe many of the chants at the protests are antisemitic and they're worried about their safety.

As protests there entered a sixth day, Columbia's president said all classes Monday will be remote to "deescalate the rancor."

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia graduate, said Monday he is "not comfortable" supporting the university "until corrective action is taken" to protect students and staff.

Jewish students feel threatened

Local Jewish students told WBZ they feel threatened by the protests which continued Monday, the first day of the Passover holiday.

WBZ spoke with Margaux Jubin, a sophomore at Emerson who was taking pictures in the alleyway where pro-Palestinian demonstrators set up their encampment. She also lives nearby.

"I was in there shooting yesterday and someone told me, no Zionists are allowed in this part of the alley, and I was like, I live here, I pay tuition here," Jubin said, "A lot of our friends don't feel safe to leave our buildings."

Eitan Moore, a sophomore at MIT, also told WBZ that the MIT administration is not doing enough to protect Jewish students.

"Any institution that's trying to function has to be able to enforce its rules, enforce the policies, and that's something that hasn't happened," Moore said.  

MIT protest

Students protesting at MIT want the school to cut research ties with the Israeli military.

There's been no comment yet from MIT.

A pro-Palestinian camp set up at MIT on Monday, April 22, 2024. CBS Boston

Emerson College protest

Emerson students want the college to support "Palestinian liberation."

"We're trying to take our education into our own hands. We're sick of what our school's been doing," Emerson student Owen Buxton told WBZ-TV. "We're gathered here and we're not going to leave until our demands are met or we're dragged away by police."

Buxton said they've been "in communication" with Emerson's administration about their demonstration.

Students at Emerson College supporting Palestine sleep in tents in an alley off of Boylston street in Boston on April 22, 2024.  JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

Emerson College President Jay Bernhardt said the protesters are from "the nonaffiliated student organization Students for Justice in Palestine."

"The College strongly supports the right to express one's beliefs through protest. This right comes with the responsibility of doing so without bigotry or hatred in any form. We encourage thoughtful dialogue and meaningful expression but will not tolerate actions threatening safety, operations, or educational access," Bernhardt said in a statement Monday.

A pro-Palestinian camp set up at Emerson College on Monday, April 22, 2024. CBS Boston

The demonstration is being held in the Boylston Place alley, which Bernhardt said is "not solely owned" by the college and is under the jurisdiction of Boston Police. He said students who don't feel safe in the area can ask campus police for an escort.

Tufts University protest

A small group of students at Tufts University also set up a pro-Palestinian camp of about seven tents on the school's campus in Medford.

A pro-Palestinian camp set up at Tufts University on Monday, April 22, 2024. CBS Boston

Tufts spokesman Patrick Collins told WBZ-TV they are "actively and closely monitoring the situation."

"While students are permitted to express their views, including demonstrating on campus, we will hold accountable any community members who engage in conduct that violates university policy. Regarding the students' demands, our position on this has been clear and consistent for several years: We do not support the (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement," Collins said in a statement.

Tufts, MIT and Harvard all received failing grades earlier this month from the Anti-Defamation League in its first "Campus Antisemitism Report Card."

Harvard Yard closed

Harvard is apparently hoping to avoid any protests or camps. The university has restricted access to Harvard Yard until Friday afternoon, according to the Harvard Crimson.

A sign posted to the gates said "Structures, including tents and tables, are not permitted in the Yard without prior permission." Students who violate the policy are "subject to disciplinary action."

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