Pro-Palestinian, 'Cop City' protesters arrested on Emory University campus

Updated at 11:54 p.m.

Multiple arrests were made Thursday morning on Emory University’s campus.

Demonstrators who had set up an encampment on campus to protest the Israel-Hamas war and a controversial public safety training center in Atlanta that opponents have dubbed “Cop City” were dispersed by the Atlanta Police Department, Emory Police Department and Georgia State Patrol.

Emory student on police escalation

WABE criminal justice reporter Chamian Cruz spoke with an Emory student who asked to be identified as D.D. on what she witnessed.

“I mean, it was on all accounts, a peaceful demonstration and then I just see 60 street, 60 state troopers and APD walk head-on into the quad,” D.D. said.

“I just watch them wreak havoc on this campus and injure students left and right, assault faculty members. And I’m watching as my own faculty members are watching this like me and shocked at how this administration chooses to handle freedom of thought on campus, on their own campus.”

Assistant vice president of university communications, Laura Diamond, initially told WABE in a written statement, “Several dozen protesters trespassed into Emory University’s campus early Thursday morning and set up tents on the Quad. These individuals are not members of our community. They are activists attempting to disrupt our university as our students finish classes and prepare for finals.”

Diamond later updated the statement to say, “The activists who initially gathered were not recognized as members of our community and were disrupting the university as our students finish classes and prepare for finals. Some members of the Emory community later joined the initial group.”

In response to the arrests, protesters released a statement saying, “Atlanta community members were indiscriminately attacked today with pepper bullets, tear gas, and tasers for the simple act of camping out on a school lawn in solidarity with Palestine and Stop Cop City.”

They called the actions of the officers an “overt act of terrorism” and said protesters and students demanded “an end to the police’s brutality and the immediate release of all activists arrested” and for Emory University to divest from all programs enabling what they called “Israeli apartheid.”

Atlanta Police Department confirmed in a statement that officers deployed chemical irritants, but rubber bullets were not used.

Later Thursday evening, hundreds of protesters marched to the Candler School of Theology, where other Emory students and faculty staged a sit-in. The crowd then returned to the quad after being forced to retreat by Emory Police and Georgia State Patrol after firing pepper pellets to disperse them.

The protests on Emory’s campus mirror a growing number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at universities in the U.S.

The Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-GA) strongly condemned the use of force by police on the protesters, saying, “Emory University and APD fully bear responsibility for the violence we are seeing at the Emory campus right now. Students and protesters must be allowed their full constitutional rights.”

Gov. Brian Kemp released a statement Thursday evening on X.

Chamian Cruz, Matthew Pearson and Rebecca Etter contributed to this report.