Response to Linda Mills False Account of NYU Student Encampment

23 April 2024 

Dear Colleagues, 

You will have received a message from Linda Mills and Fountain Walker just last evening, detailing what they say happened at Gould Plaza in response to an NYU student encampment established in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Much of their account is false. 

There was no breach in the barriers by non-NYU ID-holding people; there was no intimidation or antisemitism expressed from the Plaza or the assembled NYU identified protesters on the sidewalk closest to the barriers; there was no intimidation other than by NYPD to those on the sidewalk and implicitly on the Plaza (until they moved in, and then the intimidation was extremely violent). The protest was indeed loud but it was contained; indeed, the point of protest is to disrupt the everyday so that the issues cannot be ignored. We narrate the sequence of events below based on first-hand accounts by AAUP members. 

Dozens of students set up an encampment on Gould Plaza this morning, in the early hours. The point of the protest was to express support for the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank, to publicize NYU’s complicity in the genocide of the Palestinian people, NYU’s investment in the weapons manufacturing that facilitates such genocide, and NYU’s legitimation of the Israeli state policy of settler colonialism with its site in Tel Aviv After a few negotiations with the NYPD led by faculty supporters, the police left and NYU Public Security took over the institutional management of the site while the students were peacefully setting about organizing themselves into the tents and compiling supplies that poured in from the community (faculty, students, staff, locals). NYU created a barrier separating the encampment on Gould Plaza from the street and started refusing entry to the plaza to any additional protesters (including students, staff, or faculty members). As the day proceeded, the protests got louder. Again, the point of protest is to make it impossible to ignore the topics of protest. So, the protestors were loud, they chanted, they drummed, and they were energetic. Throughout the day, the students maintained impeccable discipline. The crowds on the sidewalk outside the encampment (including many students holding up their IDS asking to be admitted to the university space), grew and the sidewalk became very cramped and crowded. Across the street, a small counter-protest was formed (5-6 people) and they called the NYPD (not due to any threat coming from the Plaza, which was loud but peaceful). 

Faculty observers and supporters, including NYU-AAUP, wrote to Linda, Gigi, and Fountain Walker to implore them to allow folks with NYU IDs to come up on the Plaza to relieve the pressure on the sidewalk, which was now being compressed by the NYPD “protecting” the 5-6 counter-protesters. Throughout the day, we faculty maintained very cordial relations with

Fountain and Craig Jolley, among others who were actually on site. (Linda Mills was never present, to our knowledge, and neither she nor any other NYU leader responded to our letters, 

At some point, students with NYU IDs on the sidewalk attempted to get inside the barriers to relieve the unsafe compression outside. At no point were non-NYU people knowingly allowed to join the Plaza encampment, and at no time was anyone on the Plaza either violent or antisemitic in speech or behavior. There was NO incitement at all. At any time. NYU Leadership’s decision to call the NYPD was capricious, unwarranted, and without justification. It would have been unconscionable under any circumstances, but is all the more so given that a large proportion of the protestors were people of color, and NYPD are known for their particular history of brutality toward Black and Brown people. The police arrived en masse, in full riot gear, with buses and vans and the clear expectation of making mass arrests. When they arrived, the protestors had recently finished holding a passover seder, and were in the midst of Maghreb prayer. They accused the protestors of trespassing (on their own campus, paid for with their tuition dollars), and shortly thereafter began making arrests in an especially rough manner. Based on our current information over 120 members of the NYU community were arrested. One student reporter was pepper sprayed by the NYPD for taking pictures of the violence. 

We expect to have more information soon about how we can respond as a faculty to this egregious overstep on the part of our administration. In the meantime, we hope you will join us in supporting our courageous colleagues and students, and publicly and vociferously condemning the actions of NYU administration and the NYPD. Please write directly to Linda Mills and her “team” and please encourage your Chairs or Deans to write to object in the strongest terms the shocking breach of collegiality and care owed to our colleagues and our students. 

In sadness and solidarity with our students, 

The NYU-AAUP Executive Committee