Pro-Palestinian UNC protesters call for charges to be dropped, citing First Amendment violation

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Thursday, May 30, 2024
Pro-Palestinian UNC protesters call for charges to be dropped
Six pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at UNC-Chapel Hill last month had support inside and outside the Orange County Courtroom.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- The six pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at UNC-Chapel Hill last month had support inside and outside the Orange County Courtroom Thursday morning.

According to court records, Emi Abe-teh, Stephen Sandor, Gurnoor Majhail, and Tashia Ethridge were arrested and charged with resisting, obstructing and delaying law enforcement and trespassing. Jackson Prause and Owen Stone face those same charges in addition to assaulting a law enforcement officer.

Four of them were UNC students and two were Duke students at the time of the arrests.

Their attorneys -- Pooyan Ordoubadi of Lopez-Cobb and Ordoubadi, PLLC; and Jaelyn D. Miller of Emancipate NC -- said they want all these charges dropped, calling it a 'violation of their First Amendment at the hands of the police and university leaders'.

WATCH | Court records show names of 6 protesters facing serious charges

Three of the six arrested protesters attend UNC.

Wilson spoke with ABC11 following court and said the fight continues.

"They really want to focus on the cause... and continue to have everyone keep eyes on Gaza, and Rafah specifically," Wilson said. "That's their main goal."

On behalf of the six students, a statement released Thursday said in part:

"Our work must always center Palestine, never allowing the repression of our movement on Turtle Island to overshadow the devastation and genocide being committed by the Israeli apartheid state nor overshadow the liberation work happening in Palestine right now and since 1948.

Putting pressure on the District Attorney and court to drop our charges is not the only reason we encouraged people to show up here. We also wanted to take advantage of our court appearances to give food to anyone who needs it; build solidarity and trust; provide space to hear community grievances, knowledge, skills, resources, needs, and visions for the future; and make plans for actions that we can take to bring those visions into reality...

We call out UNC-Chapel Hill for its oppressive and hypocritical call for police to brutalize their students and community and denounce their empty lip service in support of past student movements...We will keep fighting for UNC-Chapel Hill and other universities to end study-abroad programs in the apartheid state of so-called Israel. We will keep fighting for them to stop buying and selling products manufactured by companies complicit in genocide. We will keep fighting for them to disclose, and we will keep fighting for them to divest!"

The court is awaiting evidence including the body cam video of the officers involved. Their next court date is scheduled for July 30.

What led to the arrests

These arrests happened on April 30 in the quad on the UNC campus. Police officers moved to break up a pro-Palestinian protest and encampment.

The university said protesters who had been there for days began to violate university policy. They were asked to leave and given multiple warnings.

In total, 36 of the protesters were detained and thirty of them were cited for trespassing and released on-site. Ten of them were UNC-Chapel Hill students.

Further research uncovered that investigators accused Stone of using a drum to hit an NC State police officer who was assisting with the arrest Tuesday morning.

WATCH | Pro-Palestinian protesters take down U.S. flag replace it with Palestine flag on UNC quad

Pro-Palestine protesters at UNC removed an American flag and replaced it with the Palestine flag hours after protesters were arrested at the quad.

SEE ALSO | UNC, Duke, NCSU students continue campus pro-Palestinian protest in Chapel Hill