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Two Ohio State students charged with criminal trespassing at Palestinian protest

Protestors gather at Mirror Lake on Ohio State University's campus. They hold a sign that says "Divest from Death" and fly Palestinian flags.
George Shillcock
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WOSU
Protestors gather at Mirror Lake on Ohio State University's campus demanding the university disinvest from funding sources related to Israel and their war in Gaza against Hamas on Tuesday, April 24, 2024.

Ohio State University police arrested two organizers at a campus protest Tuesday afternoon.

Two OSU students were charged with criminal trespassing around 5:30 p.m. during a protest of over 50 people outside Meiling Hall, a south campus building for administrative offices for the OSU College of Medicine, Office of Health Sciences and Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. The students were identified Wednesday as 21-year-old Yousef Ahmed Munir and 20-year-old Hana Mohamed El Nemr.

The protest started earlier in the afternoon at the Mirror Lake amphitheater, where protestors gave speeches, waved Palestinian flags and held signs that said "Divest From Death."

Ohio State spokesperson Ben Johnson said in a statement that university policy prohibits disruptions of the university's mission, administrative functions and campus life activities. He told WOSU Wednesday that Munir and El Nemr were both repeatedly told to stop being disruptive, but did not comply.

"When today's demonstrations became disruptive to the students, faculty and staff in Meiling Hall, the university issued multiple warnings. When the disruptive activity continued, two individuals were arrested," Johnson said.

Johnson said the two students will also be referred to the Office of Student Conduct.

A Palestinian Flag at Mirror Lake on Ohio State University's campus
George Shillcock
/
WOSU
A Palestine flag flies at a protest next to Mirror Lake on Ohio State University's campus on April 23, 2024.

Videos posted to social media accounts for Students for Justice in Palestine and the Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists show the brief moments before and after the arrests.

One video posted by the Palestinian Liberation Movement shows a group of people holding signs in front of Meiling Hall. One person, who the social media posts identify as an organizer of the protest, is standing in front of one group of people when several police officers converge on them.

The officers carry the person inside the building as protestors yell at the officers.

The video does not show the moments leading up to the arrest.

A criminal complaint filed against the two said that when the protest left Mirror Lake, it marched to Meiling Hall and stopped. The complaint said the group began chanting loudly and police and OSU staff member Mindy Clagg notified the protestors that they were breaking the university's Space Rules.

Johnson said the building was hosting a reception for artists who contributed to Ether Arts, a visual and literary arts magazine and it was also Reading Day. Reading Day is a day dedicated to studying during OSU's exam week.

The complaint said the officers first arrested Munir after he was warned and failed to leave the area.

The complaint said the group started chanting again after Munir was arrested. The group was told to stop again by police and Clagg but did not, so the police affest El Nemr.

The complaint said the two were processed and then transported to the Franklin County Jail.

Unlike past protests in Columbus and around OSU's campus, the Columbus Division of Police did not have itslight blue-vested dialogue unit present at Tuesday's protest. The police teamtrained with OSU and international experts on how to handle rowdy protestors and sports crowds.

A member of the Columbus Division of Police Dialogue Unit approaches a group of protestors gathered on Ohio State University's campus.
George Shillcock
/
WOSU
A member of the Columbus Division of Police Dialogue Unit approaches a group of protestors gathered on Ohio State University's campus in November 2023.

Johnson said he did not know why Columbus police were not at this protest. The dialogue unit has shown up to protests both on campus and off campus.

Johnson provided a copy of OSU's "Space Rules" that he said El Nemr and Munir violated. The rules state "noise that is disruptive includes, but is not limited to, amplified sound and other loud noise that is audible more than 50 feet from the source of the sound."

But he said, it depends on the building that is being protested outside of. Johnson said the students who were arrested and the other demonstrators were told of these rules.

"It really, hinges on disruption and and disruption isn't the same at every building. You can imagine disruption at Ohio Stadium is different than disruption in the library or in a laboratory or in a classroom. It's exam week. Yesterday was reading day. They were outside an academic building. There was also a previously scheduled event going on in the lobby of that building," Johnson said.

Johnson said these rules are meant to prevent disruption of university business like teaching, classroom instruction, laboratory work, events that happen on campus and administrative work.

No protestors were arrested at a protest in November when dozens of demonstrators blocked the entrance to the OSU president's office. The CPD dialogue team was present for most of that event.

Columbus police did not respond to a request for comment.

Ohio State President Ted Carter issued a statement just one day before this protest and said comments made at recent student protests are deplorable. He warned if any hate speech escalates to incitement or threats of violence, the university will quickly enforce the law.

Johnson said the university has an "unwavering commitment" to freedom of speech and the university took this action in alignment with its space use rules to provide for the orderly conduct of university business.

The groups who organized this protest are planning another demonstration at the Ohio Union on Thursday at 5 p.m.

Students for Justice in Palestine said in an Instagram post the protestors will demand that Ohio State stop investing in companies and initiatives the group says profits off the genocide of Palestinians.

The post said the protest will be in solidarity with other student groups on college campuses across the country that are starting encampments.More than 100 protestors were recently arrested at Columbia University in New York City. Several other universities have seen encampments pop up from groups protesting the war in Palestine.

Johnson said university staff and police will be present tomorrow. He said the university is having ongoing conversations with students about all the protests that happen on campus.

He said the university will continue to support and encourage students to use their first amendment rights as long as other students safety is not put in jeopardy or if the protest disrupts university business.

When asked by a reporter if the university arresting Munir and El Nemr would have a chilling effect on future protests, Johnson said he hopes it does not.

"We, support First Amendment rights and freedom of expression because it's the law, but also because it's what we believe in and because it's what makes a university and what makes Ohio State great. So we want students to use that voice, but we want everybody to be safe," Johnson said.

Ohio State's Hillel chapter and the organizers of the protest did not respond to requests for comment.

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.