May 1, 2024 - News

Columbus reviewing OSU campus protest arrests

College campuses with reported encampments or sit-ins related to the war in Gaza
Data: Axios research; Note: Universities with joint encampments reported separately; Locations approximated for clarity; Map: Kavya Beheraj, Tory Lysik and Will Chase/Axios

The Columbus city attorney's office faces pressure to drop criminal charges against the pro-Palestinian protesters arrested on OSU's campus last week.

Why it matters: The city was largely uninvolved with the protests, but is reckoning with an aggressive crackdown from school administrators and police, similar to other university towns.

Catch up quick: Students and others protested on the South Oval, urging the university to divest from Israel, which OSU says it cannot do under state law.

  • Campus police, with support from Highway Patrol, arrested dozens of protesters over several days and charged them with criminal trespassing, with the biggest clash on Thursday.
  • State troopers armed with long-ranged firearms monitored that evening's standoff, the campus newspaper reported.
  • State Rep. Munira Abdullahi, D-Columbus, alleged she was shoved to the ground and injured, blaming police for escalating the situation.

The latest: Protesters at Monday's council meeting urged city leaders to drop the criminal charges, as was the case with 57 people arrested at the University of Texas.

  • Council has emphasized that city police officers did not make any arrests and those charged were processed in a county jail.

Yes, but: The city attorney's office has jurisdiction over local misdemeanor offenses.

What we're hearing: Arraignments for those arrested were delayed to mid-June at attorneys' requests, a spokesperson for City Attorney Zach Klein tells us.

  • The spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the arrests while the office reviews each case, but offered a general statement.
  • "Peaceful protests are fundamental to the health of our democracy, but so too is our commitment to public safety and the wellbeing of residents, families and students alike."

The big picture: Hundreds have been arrested on college campuses nationwide as protesters call for a ceasefire in Gaza and divestment in Israel.

  • Universities have struggled to balance the right of free speech with protecting Jewish students and preventing disruptions for non-protesters in OSU's case, all during the middle of exam week.

What they're saying: OSU president Ted Carter, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral who joined the school in January, said in a statement on Monday that the arrests were "not about the content of anyone's speech" but a result of "intentional violation of university space rules."

  • He condemned encampments here and elsewhere, pledging "Ohio State's campus will not be overtaken in this manner."

Go deeper: Campus protests of 2024, explained

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