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Claremont Police Arrest 20 Activists at Pomona College

This article was published in conjunction with The Claremont Independent.


Police block College Ave. outside of Pomona’s Alexander Hall

On Friday, Claremont Police arrested 20 demonstrators from the Claremont Colleges during a protest for Palestinians in Gaza. Over 100 protesters followed the arrested students from Alexander Hall to the Claremont Jail. Some protestors were released later that evening, and the rest were released just after midnight.


The arrests came as student groups including Pomona Divest Apartheid and Students for Justice in Palestine have been demanding that Pomona College divest from all companies with ties to Israel. According to a press release by Pomona Divest Apartheid, over the past week, demonstrators built a “mock apartheid wall on Pomona College’s Marston Quad” as a piece of “protest art.” At just after 1:00 p.m. on Friday, Pomona College administrators and campus safety personnel began to dismantle the mock apartheid wall.


Shortly after 4:00 p.m., protestors entered Alexander Hall, an administrative building at Pomona. At least 18 students occupied Pomona President Gabrielle Starr’s office, with dozens more occupying the hallway outside of her office. Over 100 additional protesters congregated around the building and began to chant: “Israel bombs, Pomona pays, how many kids did you kill today?” “Stop the killing, stop the slaughter, Gaza has no food or water” and “Up, up with liberation, down, down with occupation.”


At 4:26 p.m., President Starr sent an email to the student body affirming the college’s commitment to students’ “right to protest,” though she expressed concern over protestors wearing masks and refusing to identify themselves. According to Starr, Pomona administrators and campus safety removed protestor materials from the Smith Campus Center in preparation for a Sunday event. Starr wrote that at this point, students began to “verbally harass staff” and used “a sickening, anti-black racial slur in addressing an administrator.” Starr stated that Pomona students involved in the Smith Campus Center or Alexander Hall events would be subject to “immediate suspension” and that other demonstrators would be “banned from campus.” A recording shows President Starr making the same consequences known to students in Alexander Hall.


Shortly thereafter, more than a dozen squad cars from the Claremont, Pomona, Azusa, La Verne, and Covina police departments arrived on the scene. The officers were dispatched with riot gear and tear gas launchers. At 5:20 p.m., all Claremont College students were notified via text about “Police activity at Pomona Campus, Alexander Hall.” Despite being warned to “stay away from the area where law enforcement personnel are present,” students began to congregate around Alexander Hall to spectate.


Shortly after 6:00 p.m., police began arresting demonstrators. They escorted protestors out of Alexander Hall in several small groups with their hands zip-tied behind their backs while other protestors jeered and cursed at the officers. In total, the police charged 18 students with misdemeanor trespassing.


During one of the arrests, a female student obstructed an officer’s path. The officer grabbed her arms and pulled her along with him. One of his colleagues then shoved her. The officers took her behind police lines, zip-tied her hands, and loaded her into a white van with other arrested protesters. The officers charged the student with misdemeanor delaying or obstructing a law enforcement officer, making for 20 total arrests.


Shortly after 7:00 p.m., after the police finished taking the 19 students into custody, protestors migrated to the Claremont Jail, which is less than a mile away. According to the City of Claremont, the jail typically only houses up to 18 inmates. Around this time, local television crews and news helicopters arrived on the scene.


For over 4 hours, over 100 protestors stood outside the gate of the jail. Protestors chanted more slogans: “Instead of divesting, Pomona is arresting,” “We smell bacon.” Other chants compared the Claremont Police Department to the Ku Klux Klan. Protestors provided snacks and honked car horns.


According to student journalist Samson Zhang, police began to release protestors from custody around 9:30 p.m. The released students were greeted with applause and hugs from their fellow demonstrators.


At 12:07 a.m. on Saturday morning, the Claremont Police Department announced over loudspeaker that all Claremont Colleges students arrested for trespassing had been released. Shortly thereafter, protestors announced their intention to continue their activism until Pomona divests from all companies with ties to Israel. They dispersed around 12:30 a.m.


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