Pro-Palestine protests and arrests at Yale: a visual timeline

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By Isaac Yu, Ellie Park, Anika Arora Seth, Karen Lin, Josie Reich and Dylan Bober. Published April 30, 2024.

Arrests on campus last week marked one of the most tumultuous periods in Yale's recent history.

Pro-Palestine protests, which remained largely peaceful, ramped up ahead of Bulldog Days, the program for recently-admitted students, as well as a meeting of the Yale Corporation, as demonstrators saw an opportunity to pressure administrators into disclosing and divesting from investments in military weapons manufacturers.

Beinecke Plaza, a common space at the heart of campus, became the center of attention as tensions over the Israel-Hamas war reached an all-time high. On Friday, April 19, after a send-off party in the Schwarzman Center for outgoing University President Peter Salovey, students began sleeping in tents on the plaza.

After a three-night encampment, police arrested 48 people, including 44 students, on the morning of Monday, April 22. Along with peers at Columbia, the arrests on Beinecke Plaza were among the first in a national wave of protests on college campuses. As of the publication of this article, demonstrations have continued for another week, with a new encampment on Cross Campus which was also dismantled after three days, with no arrests.

Pulling from live reporting, the News reconstructed a visual timeline of the turmoil that led to the arrests.

Monday, April 15

(Samad Hakani, Photography Editor)

Heightened activity on the Plaza began around 11:46 a.m. on Monday, when organizers installed a bookshelf as part of a protest titled “Books not Bombs.” The wooden structure was about six feet tall and spanned the circular portion of the steps to the Schwarzman Center but did not wholly prevent students from walking through.

(Samad Hakani, Photography Editor)

Beinecke Plaza — officially known as the Hewitt Quadrangle — has long been a site for student protest, including recent demonstrations for graduate student unionization and climate action. The Plaza is situated between the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, dining services and event space in the Schwarzman Center and administrative offices in historic Woodbridge Hall.

After an hour of back-and-forth conversation between the protesters and University officials, facilities workers disassembled the structure at approximately 1:05 p.m. — just over an hour after its construction. At the time, administrators failed to clearly explain what policy the bookshelf violated. The University has since clarified its policy, stating it dismantled the shelves because they impeded pedestrian traffic on the plaza.

WATCH: Yale takes down pop-up bookshelf

As shelves were carted away, protesters laid the books down on the stairs leading to the Schwarzman Center. In a press release, students announced their intent to engage in a “sustained occupation” of the plaza, and roughly 75 remained on the plaza through the evening.

Organizers began operating the Instagram account @occupybeinecke, now known as @occupyyale, using the platform to rally supporters throughout the week. Groups participating in demonstrations have included Yalies4Palestine, Yale Jews for Ceasefire and Faculty for Justice in Palestine.

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Later that night, approximately 25 students gathered on the steps of Beinecke Plaza in front of the Schwarzman Center to pray Maghrib — the Muslim evening prayer service.

(Christina Lee, Photography Editor)

Following the prayer, at least 60 demonstrators remained to sing songs and chant slogans such as “free, free Palestine” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

"Free, free Palestine"

Some brought sleeping bags and told the News that they had planned to sleep on Beinecke Plaza overnight if administrators did not ask them to leave.

They were forced to disperse from the plaza at around 11 p.m. under threat of police citation by Yale administrators, who declined to provide a reason or cite a policy for the intervention.

Tuesday, April 16

(Samad Hakani, Photography Editor)

On Tuesday, demonstrators began settling into their encampment on the plaza, hosting a series of teach-ins, vigils and art builds as well as a prayer service and chanting in the evening. It became clear that organizers intended to replicate that schedule moving forward in anticipation of the Corporation’s meeting on Saturday.

“We're gonna continue our night and then continue past sunset by staying out here by maintaining our presence and by building on the momentum that we started with Monday,” said Craig Birckhead-Morton ’24.

Organizers drew reference to activity on the Plaza in 1986, when students rallied for divestment from companies doing business under South Africa's apartheid regime. Yale eventually divested fully from South African holdings in 1994.

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1986 vs. 2024: activity last week mimicked the “shanty town” that stayed up for two years (Courtesy of Elizabeth Juviler '90 / Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

In all, students and faculty members hosted over 12 hours of events, highlighting violence in Gaza and Yale’s lack of transparency about its investments in arms manufacturers. Yale discloses less than one percent of its endowment holdings. That disclosed portion includes funds invested in at least 75 military contractors that sell weapons to Israel, including Raytheon, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Read more: Calls for weapons divestment

(Samad Hakani, Photography Editor)

By the end of the day, the Plaza had been transformed into a gallery of anti-war art, including a 10-foot-long fighter model painted with messages such as “COMPLACENCY = COMPLICITY”.

Read more: Occupy Beinecke holds teach-ins, displays artwork

Wednesday, April 17

(Samad Hakani, Photography Editor)

On Wednesday, the continued encampment coincided with a drive for bone marrow cancer treatments in honor of Mandi Schwartz ’10, a pro-Israel table and an effort calling for Yale to invest in summertime food for New Haven youth.

For recently-admitted students attending the last day of Bulldog Days, Beinecke Plaza was a poignant glimpse into life on campus.

“It's the center of Yale's wealth. It's a gathering place for people. It's a symbol of Yale's power.” — Adam Nussbaum '25.

Yale Friends of Israel set up a table adjacent to the protests, displaying a banner urging the return of Israeli hostages held by Hamas, as well as a string of Israeli flags.

(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

At approximately 4:18 p.m., the University released a statement announcing it would prohibit investments in all assault weapons manufacturers that “engage in retail activities to the general public” but declined to divest from military weapons manufacturers.

Read more: Yale refuses to divest from military weapons manufacturers

“The ACIR concluded that military weapons manufacturing for authorized sales did not meet the threshold of grave social injury, a prerequisite for divestment.” — University statement, April 17

The committee had begun revisiting Yale's investments in November. The University said in its statement that the military weapons manufacturing “supports socially necessary uses, such as law enforcement and national security.”

Chants for divestment

“I am disgusted and appalled by the [decision] not to recommend divestment. How much death does Yale money need to fund before this genocide is considered a 'grave social injury?’” Ky Miller YSE '25 wrote to the News following the decision.

Read more: Students react to Yale investment decision

In the evening, pro-divestment protesters left the plaza and regrouped in the Schwarzman Center rotunda, where they sang songs and recited pro-Palestine chants. Protesters followed instructions from administrators to leave the building at 11 p.m.

(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

Thursday, April 18

In New York City, police officers arrested over 100 pro-Palestine protesters at an encampment on Columbia University’s South Lawn, garnering national scrutiny and building anticipation that other campuses could also face arrests.

Back in New Haven, protesters hung a sign on the hunger strikers' tent labeling the Yale protest as “in solidarity with Columbia's Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”

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(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

Friday, April 19

Tensions on the plaza reached new heights on Friday as the largest crowd yet, over 500 at its peak, gathered in anticipation of outgoing University President Salovey’s evening send-off party inside the Schwarzman Center. The event brought together current and former senior University administrators, trustees, and famed faculty.

The party also brought heavier police presence, with dozens of Yale police officers on the scene over the course of the day, including some in riot gear.

(Samad Hakani, Photography Editor)

Over 100 students rushed in front of the Center's colonnade to confront Salovey as he entered the Schwarzman Center at around 5:50 p.m. through a side entrance.

Several students shouted expletives at Salovey while others chanted phrases such as “shame on you” and “hey hey, ho ho, there’s blood on your portfolio.”

Protesters confront Salovey
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(Samad Hakani and Ellie Park, Photography Editors)

Organizers engaged in negotiations with Yale administrators, who sought to prevent an overnight encampment. Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis told the News that he had promised the protest’s student leaders that he would meet with them if they packed up their tents.

An organizer told the News they had responded to the administration’s offer and would only consider dispersing if they were granted an open meeting with the Corporation’s Committee on Investor Responsibility, which recommends investment policy to the full corporation.

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(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

That night, protesters set up an encampment on Beinecke Plaza with at least 27 tents and close to 100 people sleeping overnight, pledging to remain on the plaza until their demands to “disclose and divest” were met.

At around 11:30pm, a few protesters took the American flag down from the flagpole in Beinecke Plaza. The action to take down the flag was not sanctioned by the student coalition that organized the bulk of Friday’s demonstrations, an organizer told the News.

Negotiations between administrators and protesters stalled, but no arrests were made.

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(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

Read live coverage from Friday: Pro-divestment protesters stay overnight on Beinecke Plaza, no arrests

Saturday, April 20

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(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

After a night without arrests, organizers continued their occupation efforts. The number of tents in the encampment grew to at least 40. Student performances included Shades of Yale, a marimba ensemble, a Korean drum troupe and tinikling, a traditional Filipino folk dance.

Trustees, who convened at the Greenberg Conference Center about a mile north of the Plaza stayed mum about the contents of their meeting. Approximately 65 protesters marched north to meet the trustees but missed them by less than ten minutes.

At around 8 p.m., Lewis wrote to the News that students were allowed to be on Beinecke Plaza until 11 p.m. and would not face Yale College discipline if they took their tents home with them. After two administrators appeared on the plaza and read Lewis's message to the crowd, organizers encouraged students to show up in large numbers to prevent arrests. The crowd swelled between 10 p.m. and midnight.

A small group of pro-Israel counter-protesters was present from around 11:30 p.m. to around 1 a.m., largely remaining in front of Woodbridge Hall. Confrontations and shouting between the two groups escalated around 11:39 p.m., when a counter-protester hung an Israeli flag over a wooden art panel that pro-Palestine protesters placed on the plaza earlier in the day.

A pro-Palestine protester then pulled the flag off the panel and threw it into the Noguchi Sculpture Garden — a sunken, walled area in the center of the plaza. Footage from the night showed some physical altercation between individuals. Still, the protests remained largely peaceful.

At around 12:18 a.m., organizers announced that administrators told them that no arrests would be made that night.

Read live coverage from Saturday: No arrests for second night in a row as pro-divestment protesters maintain overnight encampment on Beinecke Plaza

(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

At the end of the night, at least 40 tents remained on Beinecke Plaza, with around 100 students staying to sleep, approximately the same number as the previous night. Organizers encouraged protesters not sleeping on the Plaza to exit in pairs and not engage with counter-protesters.

With the start of classes on Monday, organizers anticipated that the next night — Sunday — would become a showdown between police and those living in the encampment.

“Tomorrow night will be even higher risk than tonight was,” an organizer said over a megaphone. “The Yale administration does not want us to occupy Beinecke Plaza during the week. They don't want to have to face us.”

Sunday, April 21

The next day, Salovey broke his silence on the demonstrations at around 4:30 p.m., writing in an email to Yale affiliates that the University would pursue disciplinary action against protesters “according to its policies.”

The message was Salovey’s first to address the war in Gaza in over five months. He added that Yale police officers were investigating reports of “intimidation and harassment” amid growing tension on the Plaza.

Also on Sunday, 14 pro-divestment students ended an eight-day hunger strike.

Occupy Beinecke organizers began encouraging students to show up at the Plaza around 10 p.m. Sunday night’s crowd was the largest yet. The protests remained peaceful throughout the day and night, though accusations of violence have been highlighted by national media outlets and in the emails from Salovey and Lewis.

Occupy Beinecke

Expecting the presence of counter-protesters, Occupy Beinecke appointed a group of marshals to lead the protest and provide conflict de-escalation if necessary. Organizers reiterated their goals, with one announcing: “Our demands are loud and clear. And they’ve been loud and clear throughout the occupation.”

The protests remained peaceful throughout the day and night, though accusations of violence have been highlighted by national media outlets and in the emails from Salovey and Lewis.

Read more: Pro-divestment protesters continue Beinecke encampment for third day under threat of disciplinary action

A group of Jewish community members, draped in American and Israeli flags, gathered on the other side of the plaza and began singing Jewish prayers and songs. The group, approximately 30 strong at its peak, left after about an hour without incident.

(Christina Lee, Photography Editor)

Organizer Kira Berman ’25 said in an interview with the News that pro-divestment protesters had "crossed the line from anti-Zionist to antisemitic. For them, this is about ‘Israel should not exist.’ ‘From the river to the sea’ means that our entire people should be wiped out.”

Other Jewish students have expressed a variety of perspectives on the demonstrations, including support, fear and frustration.

During negotiations, Yale offered pro-Palestine organizers a meeting with two Corporation trustees. An organizer told the News that the group organizing the encampment declined Yale’s offer because the University would not commit before the meeting to disclosing information about its investments beyond what was already publicly available.

(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

Shortly after midnight, most of the crowd dispersed and those sleeping overnight returned to their tents, with no resolution reached between organizers and administrators. Around 250 protesters spent the night on the Plaza, more than the previous two nights combined.

But continued fears of arrests would be realized just hours later. Continue scrolling down to see how the arrests unfolded on Beinecke Plaza.

Monday morning, 5:30 a.m. | As daylight grew, more police gathered in the Schwarzman Center rotunda, and it became clear that arrests were imminent.

6 a.m. | Officers began blocking off the perimeter of the Plaza with caution tape. Some protesters began to leave the Plaza. Others gathered around the flagpole. Of the roughly 16 cops inside the Plaza, some started to flip up the entrances to the tents in which students spent their third consecutive night.

7 a.m. | More police emerged from the Schwarzman Center and begin arrests, handcuffing students with zip ties. Over the course of an hour, 48 people including 44 students are arrested and charged with misdemeanor tresspassing.

7:15 a.m. | Police begin to lead arrestees through the Schwarzman Center rotunda to shuttles waiting on the intersection of College and Grove Streets.

7:30 a.m. | Those who had left the plaza upon police warning regrouped at the intersection, shouting and singing in support of those arrested.

8:30 a.m. | In the next few hours, more and more students arrived to occupy the streetscape, forming a protest circle that blocked the intersection. Police blocked traffic along College and Grove but said that protesters would be required to disperse in the afternoon come rush hour.

For the rest of the day, students protested at College and Grove, holding performances, chalking and speeches. Meanwhile, Beinecke Plaza was scrubbed of any trace of the occupation. Caution tape, however, remained, and the plaza was still closed more than a week later.

5 p.m. | Protesters moved to Cross Campus, where they held a Seder and also prayed Maghrib later that night. Smaller-scale gatherings and demonstrations continued on the green for at least a week.

(Christina Lee, Photography Editor)

Upon arrest, the students were charged with class A misdemeanors and received summonses for court dates on May 8. In Connecticut, misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year of imprisonment, although the charges may be lowered to infractions, as happened with around nine pro-Palestine protesters arrested at Union Station in March.

One additional student was arrested for allegedly tampering with the flag on Beinecke Friday during the protest on Friday.

Arrested Yale students are automatically referred for academic discipline to the Executive Committee, the body that enforces the Undergraduate Regulations. The protesters may be subject to reprimand, probation or suspension.

Read more: The academic penalties 44 arrested students could face

In another email on Monday, Salovey described the current protest at the intersection of College and Grove streets as a “safety violation”. He wrote that he was “deeply saddened that the call for civil discourse and peaceful protest [he] issued” had not been heeded.

Organizers disputed Salovey's characterizations. “It is disingenuous and dishonest for President Salovey to portray these protests as anything but peaceful,” Angel Nwadibia '25 wrote to the News.

On Beinecke Plaza, no physical signs of the encampment remain — but more than a week later, the plaza remains closed, with police officers and caution tape continuing to restrict access.

The encampment of Cross Campus remained for more than week until the morning of Tuesday, April 30, when it was cleared by police. With protest activity still ongoing, it remains to be seen how divestment discourse could continue to impact campus as the academic year winds to a close and the class of 2024 prepares for Commencement.

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(Nora Ransibrahmanakul and Samad Hakani, Contributing Reporter and Photography Editor)

(Giri Viswanathan, Senior Photographer)

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(Ellie Park, Photography Editor)

Words by Isaac Yu, Anika Arora Seth and Josie Reich.
Production by Karen Lin, Ellie Park and Dylan Bober. Visualizations by Isaac Yu.