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OSU confirms 36 arrested at Thursday evening protest, most unaffiliated with university

A protestor is arrested by Ohio State University police.
George Shillcock
Ohio State University Police slowly began arresting dozens of protestors from a crowd of hundreds on April 25, 2024. Four to five officers converged on individual protests and put them under arrest.

Ohio State University confirmed 36 people were arrested at Thursday evening's protest on the South Oval, but have not disclosed the identities of those who were detained.

OSU spokesperson Ben Johnson said in a statement that of the three dozen people arrested, 20 were not affiliated with the university and 16 were students. Johnson did not disclose any identities or charges, but OSU police told protestors multiple times during the evening they would be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing if they did not disperse.

Police began arresting people from the crowd of over 600 just after 10 p.m. The protestors were calling on the university to end funding to companies that support Israel as the Middle-Eastern state wages war against Hamas in Gaza.

Protestors set up a ring in the South Oval and began putting up tents in the middle. Johnson told reporters earlier in the day that camping is explicitly not allowed under OSU's "space rules."


Despite this rule, the protest went on for hours. Police threatened arrest "within 15 minutes" over a loudspeaker multiple times during the evening. But police ultimately did not act until around 10 p.m.

OSU Spokesman Ben Johnson said in an emailed statement late Friday that the protestors arrested will be charged with criminal trespass. He said he will not speculate on whether OSU will pursue these charges or drop them.

Johnson questioned the assertion that police did not act or follow through on their warnings to break up within 15 minutes or be arrested. He said individuals who refused to leave after multiple warnings were arrested and charged with criminal trespass.

"OSUPD was exceptionally prepared. OSUPD was the lead agency; individuals expressed their first amendment rights; the university’s prohibition on camping and overnight events was enforced, and I’m not aware that anyone was injured," Johnson said.

Police walled off one side of the protestors' ring and began slowly pulling out single protestors and arresting them with four or five officers each. The protestors were hauled off to two Franklin County Sheriff's buses and brought to jail.

Earlier in the day, police arrested three people after a group tried setting up an encampment on the South Oval.

The encampments mimicked other demonstrations around the country at campuses including Columbia University and the University of Texas at Austin.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine told the Statehouse News Bureau's Sarah Donaldson that Ohio State President Ted Carter was the one who requested Ohio State Highway

Patrol assistance around 5 p.m. on Thursday and DeWine approved it.

Johnson said the university ultimately made the decision itself to break up the protest despite it being peaceful.

"Well established university rules prohibit camping and overnight events. Individuals who refused to leave after multiple warnings were arrested and charged with criminal trespass," Johnson said.

Before the protest was broken up, WOSU reporters spotted officers on top of the Ohio Union. They were holding binoculars and cameras on tripods.

Police officers use binoculars and cameras to watch a protest from on top of the Ohio Union on April 25, 2024.
George Shillcock
Police officers use binoculars and cameras to watch a protest from on top of the Ohio Union on April 25, 2024.

The Lantern, an Ohio State University student newspaper,reported that later in the protest these officers brought out sniper rifles. Johnson confirmed this to WOSU.

"Ohio State Highway Patrol provided overwatch support, which is a standard safety measure when they assist with large gatherings," Johnson said. "We don’t discuss specific public safety protocols. In general, overwatch support is armed, and the team carries standard equipment, including firearms, that would only be used reactively to protect the safety of all present, including demonstrators."

Protestor arrested early Thursday says "Every single right that I have was violated yesterday."

OSU research scientist Dr. Sumaya Hamadmad was arrested by OSU Police early Thursday alongside a graduate student and another person unaffiliated with the university.

Hamadmad says she was with Shey, a person WOSU interviewed Thursday and was not arrested. She says the people were sitting on the South Oval about an hour after police had broken up an earlier encampment, but they had nothing to do with that demonstration.

Hamadmad says police approached multiple times and warned them that they were not allowed to gather on the South Oval and told them to leave. She says when she was sitting on the grass, about 17 officers approached and arrested her and the other person.

"I told him it's public property. As far as I know, it's paid by my taxes, and I'm not really doing any trespassing on the oval grass. So that's when he. Yeah, he arrested me," she said.

Hamadmad says she was not read her rights by the officers despite requesting them. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2023 rolled back much of the protections of so-called Miranda rights.

"I asked, and specifically, can you read my rights to me? And (the officer) refused... I told him, like, I've seen this in movies. You know, when they take someone, they usually read the rights to them," she said.

Hamadmad, a Syrian immigrant and University of Iowa alum, says she was transported to the Jackson Pike Franklin County Detention Center and says officers made her strip in front of male officers, remove her hijab and refused to let her eat after sunset as she was fasting for religious reasons.

Hamadmad says she was there for 12 hours and was released around 10 p.m.

OSU Hillel president says police response was justified, but late

OSU Hillel board president Jeremy Davis said he was not at the protest, but was friends with many of the Israeli supporters who stood to the side and watched. Davis is a senior and is about to graduate next week from OSU.

Davis said protestors crossed the line by violating university rules prohibiting camping. But, he said freedom of speech is something he thinks is fundamental to democracy. He also accussed protestors of hate speech for chants like "Hey hey, ho ho, Zionists have got to go" and the phrase "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free."

Many Palestinian activists say that phrase is a call for peace and equality after 75 years of Israeli statehood and decades-long, open-ended Israeli military rule over millions of Palestinians. Jews hear a clear demand for Israel’s destruction.

"You know there is free speech but I think, you know, they did cross the line into hate speech. But hate speech is free speech. You know, when you chant from the river to the sea, that's clearly anti-Semitic," Davis said.

Davis said his friends at the protest didn't feel threatened, but were aware of the chants they oppose.

"I'm a Zionist. I think, you know, instead of just chanting Jews off our campus, it's kind of like a sleight of hand where you say, oh, you know, Zionists are actually just people who support the state of Israel, as many Americans are. I don't think that's very welcoming," he said.

Davis said the events yesterday were the culimination of months of inaction by Ohio State University. Protestors have demonstrated at OSU's library and even blocked the OSU president's office door since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

But no arrests happened at these demonstrations.

"This isn't the first time that something like this has happened, but it is this time where the university actually stepped in," Davis said.

Davis said he graduates next week and hopes the ceremony at the Ohio Stadium is not disrupted.

Lead protest organizer says demonstrators aren't deterred by arrests

Jamil Aboushaar, an OSU student, was one of the lead organizers of the protest. He was often in the center of the ring demonstrators made and led some prayers.

Aboushaar spoke to WOSU after the protest had been broken up. He says the police response was absolutely disproportionate and it was not unlawful to hold that protest in the South Oval. He pointed out that many people hang out at the South Oval all the time.

"It's frequently occupied by many people throughout the day, you people that are sitting down just chilling, doing homework, whatever it may be. But when we do it with a purpose, with a reason to raise a voice, all of a sudden it's trespassing," Aboushaar said.

Aboushaar said he and others are calling on the university to stop funding Israel because he doesn't want the money he pays to tuition to be used for the "wrong side of history."

"I personally can't go and sleep at night knowing that I am contributing to both of my US tax dollars and to my tuition money. It doesn't sit right with me," he said.

He pointed out that protestors were being peaceful for the duration of their protest up until police intervened.

A small scuffle broke out between police and protestors after police had fully pushed protestors off the South Oval, but that was more than 6 hours after it had started.

Aboushaar said he isn't deterred by what happened Thursday and he doesn't think others are either.

"We say it and we meant it. We will not stop until they divest. We're going to be here. We're going to be back," he said.

Ohio House member injured at protest supports protestors at demonstration

Ohio State Rep. Munira Abdullahi, a first term Democrat, spoke to WOSU before the protest was broken up. House Democrats confirmed she sustained minor injuries during the protest and condemned police.

"There is no room or excuse for the unnecessary force that was used on the students and demonstrators, including an elected member of the Ohio House of Representatives who sustained minor injuries," the statement said.

Abdullahi spoke in the center of the protest multiple times during the night.

"I'm here to support our students and also to support the cause they're they're fighting for, which is the peace and Palestine peace for people in Gaza. And also the right to peacefully protest... which is their constitutional right," Abdullahi said.

Abdullahi said it was disheartening and shocking to hear about earlier protests where protestors were arrested by OSU police.

"They're speaking up for justice and they're speaking up for what they believe in. So I'm here to stand in solidarity with them and make sure that they're they're safely able to practice their First Amendment rights," Abdullahi said.

Abdullahi said that while Democrats are in the minority of the Ohio House and can't pass much, if any legislation, she said members can speak up against what happened.

Ohio governor, Democratic leaders and Columbus City Council react to protests

Several political leaders in Columbus and across Ohio have reacted to the protests.

“I made it clear to Ohio State, as we have to the other universities, that if they need backup assistance, the highway patrol will be there to help them," DeWine said.

DeWine says Ohio State was balancing First Amendment rights with university rules and regulations on structures and curfews. DeWine said there was plenty of warning given.

“People have a right to express their opinions, but if that gets in the way of other students learning, if they're chanting outside a classroom or in a way that is interfering with what goes on at any university, I think the law is very clear and the Constitution, as interpreted by the courts, is very clear," DeWine said.

DeWine's lieutenant governor, Jon Husted, was one of the earliest lawmakers to chime in. He said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he thanks the officers at the protest.

"Thanks to the Ohio Highway Patrol and others in law enforcement for firmly and professionally dispersing the anti-Israel demonstration at Ohio State," Husted wrote.

Ohio House Democratic leader Allison Russo took a different stance. She first posted a scathing rebuke of the protest being broken up and later issued a statement on behalf of Ohio House Democratic leadership.

"Agree or disagree, free speech and the right to protest are fundamental tenants of our democracy. Period. Ohio State students have a right to peacefully protest," Russo said.

The statement said the police response was uncalled for and said the force used by police was unnecessary. The statement also condemned hate, harassment and anti-semitisim.

Columbus City Council issued a statement and said the government body believes in the right of residents to protest peacefully.

"We work with our Division of Police and residents who are protesting to make sure that there can be honest dialogue in the most difficult conversations," the statement said.

But, the council said CPD was not present at the protest.

"Council wants to be clear that the Columbus Division of Police (CPD) did not carry out Thursday night’s arrests on The Ohio State University campus. Council applauds the work of CPD in creating the Dialogue Team and their model of de-escalation," the statement said.

City Council, CPD and other city spokespeople have not responded to WOSU asking why CPD was not at this protest. They have responded to past protests on OSU's campus with their specially trained dialogue unit.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.