Another day of protests took place at Stony Brook University, but it was nothing like the chaos on campus overnight. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday Staff

This story was reported by Robert Brodsky, Bart Jones, Tara Smith, Nicholas Spangler and Joe Werkmeister. It was written by Brodsky. 

The atmosphere at Stony Brook University was tense on Thursday, less than a day after 29 people, including nearly two dozen students, were arrested during a confrontation with authorities.

A pro-Palestinian protest broke out again on campus in the afternoon, although the demonstrators dispersed shortly afterward. And Jewish students, who gathered for a party in the space where Wednesday's protest took place, said the week's events had left them fearing for their safety.

Late Thursday afternoon, as students came and went to their final exams, roughly 100 students gathered at an outdoor campus concert, and later in front of the Earth and Space building, for an impromptu protest. They chanted “Free Palestine” and shouted “Shame” at university officials after the arrests of “peaceful protesters.”

The demonstrators chanted slogans against Israel and called for Palestinian resistance. One protester made an obscene gesture at a small group of students watching, one of whom was wrapped in an Israeli flag. The protest ended without altercations.

Shortly after midnight Thursday, 22 students, two faculty members and five others had been arrested after they refused to vacate a grassy area on campus known as the Staller Steps. 

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office confirmed at least 10 of the 29 defendants are charged with disorderly conduct and will be arraigned May 21. Information about the remaining 19 defendants will be released Friday, officials said.

The university refused to release the names of those arrested, citing “privacy reasons.”

Meanwhile, students gathered Thursday for a Jewish heritage event in front of the Staller Center — the same site where protesters had been arrested and evicted hours earlier.

The event got underway amid heavy security. Campus police erected wood barriers and put up yellow police tape to control access to the site. It attracted about 50 people, a sparser crowd than the 500 who came last year, event organizers said.

In a note to the university community Thursday, Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis said the protests, which began as a peaceful demonstration on Tuesday, escalated Wednesday night, leading to the arrests. A university spokeswoman declined to say who directed the police response or if McInnis invited law enforcement onto the campus.

In addition to the arrests, three students have been placed on interim suspension, officials said.

Protesters, McInnis said, harassed fellow students, erected tents on campus in violation of university policy and continued to occupy space that was reserved by other student groups.

“I am deeply saddened that we reached a point where police intervention became necessary,” McInnis said. “University administrators made every effort to avert this outcome. … The police acted professionally and with restraint, and most of our students comported themselves peacefully and with dignity in a manner that contrasts sharply with the scenes we are seeing from many other campuses.”

Stony Brook joins other universities across the country that have seen student protests related to the Israel-Hamas war, in which Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people Oct. 7, followed by Israeli retaliation and bombings in Gaza that have killed more than 34,000 people.

In Manhattan, the NYPD on Tuesday arrested nearly 300 people at Columbia University and City College. Recent protests at Hofstra University and Adelphi University ended peacefully.

Myke Rook, a Stony Brook student who attended Wednesday's demonstration, said: “What we stand for is peaceful protest. We pray. We come together. Muslims, non-Muslims.”

But Camryn Farahmandpour, 22, a senior who is Jewish, said she and her Jewish friends were harassed and intimidated Wednesday by some protesters, who shouted antisemitic insults and made obscene gestures.

While she supports free speech, “It started becoming less of a free speech thing and more of a hostility thing to Jewish students,” she said.

Sister Sanaa Nadim, the school’s Muslim chaplain and co-chair of its Interfaith Center, said some protesters lost family members in Gaza.

“They are angry at the state of affairs that no one is rescuing these people, children and elderly, who are starving to death,” Nadim said, adding that university protesters were not antisemitic. “I don’t think their emotions are anti-Jewish people. … They’re against the actions of the state of Israel.”

McInnis said the demonstrators were repeatedly advised of their rights, reminded that other groups reserved the Staller Steps and told to vacate the area.

“They refused to do so and erected tents, in violation of our policy,” she said. “They also grew increasingly hostile toward other students who were not participating in the demonstration."

Protesters and university administrators reached an impasse Wednesday before campus police, state troopers and Suffolk police moved in and made arrests after an 11 p.m. deadline expired for demonstrators to leave the Staller Center.

Administration officials had earlier agreed to meet Thursday with student leaders but threatened them with disciplinary action, including potential suspension or expulsion, if they remained on the grassy common.

McInnis said administrators had met several times with students going back to February.

“We explained that Stony Brook has no direct investments in Israel or weapons manufacturers, that SBU does not support the BDS movement, and that we will not limit the freedom of our faculty and students to be involved in research, travel, and the free exchange of ideas necessitated by their academic research and scholarship,” she said.

BDS refers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which promotes economic and cultural boycotts against Israel

Many Jewish students were feeling a sense of fear and intimidation after the two-day protest, said the leader of a campus Jewish center.

Slogans being used “appeared to us as a dog whistle that Jews don’t belong here, Jews don’t belong at Stony Brook,” said Jessica Lemons, executive director of Stony Brook Hillel. The group organized Thursday’s event, called “A Big Jewish Block Party,” which was planned since September.

“I think that a lot of students definitely are troubled by some rhetoric that is being used during protests,” Lemons said. “For the most part students just want their peers to be safe and able to learn and exist in the university environment in a way that feels safe.”

Some protesters Wednesday hoisted signs reading “Zionists Don’t Belong Here” and “Wolfie Hates Zionists,” she said. Stony Brook's school mascot is the Seawolf.

Classes took place Thursday as scheduled and will for the remainder of the semester, with use of the Staller Steps by reservation only. The school's academic semester ends May 15 and graduation is May 17.

The atmosphere at Stony Brook University was tense on Thursday, less than a day after 29 people, including nearly two dozen students, were arrested during a confrontation with authorities.

A pro-Palestinian protest broke out again on campus in the afternoon, although the demonstrators dispersed shortly afterward. And Jewish students, who gathered for a party in the space where Wednesday's protest took place, said the week's events had left them fearing for their safety.

Late Thursday afternoon, as students came and went to their final exams, roughly 100 students gathered at an outdoor campus concert, and later in front of the Earth and Space building, for an impromptu protest. They chanted “Free Palestine” and shouted “Shame” at university officials after the arrests of “peaceful protesters.”

The demonstrators chanted slogans against Israel and called for Palestinian resistance. One protester made an obscene gesture at a small group of students watching, one of whom was wrapped in an Israeli flag. The protest ended without altercations.

    WHAT TO KNOW

  • Stony Brook students renewed pro-Palestinian protests briefly on campus Thursday after a protest Wednesday night that resulted in 29 arrests.
  • The overnight arrests came after protesters refused to move from a grassy common area. 
  • Stony Brook officials did not meet with protesters, although they said they had met with students several times in recent months to explain the school's ties to Israel.

Shortly after midnight Thursday, 22 students, two faculty members and five others had been arrested after they refused to vacate a grassy area on campus known as the Staller Steps. 

The Suffolk County District Attorney's Office confirmed at least 10 of the 29 defendants are charged with disorderly conduct and will be arraigned May 21. Information about the remaining 19 defendants will be released Friday, officials said.

The university refused to release the names of those arrested, citing “privacy reasons.”

Meanwhile, students gathered Thursday for a Jewish heritage event in front of the Staller Center — the same site where protesters had been arrested and evicted hours earlier.

The event got underway amid heavy security. Campus police erected wood barriers and put up yellow police tape to control access to the site. It attracted about 50 people, a sparser crowd than the 500 who came last year, event organizers said.

In a note to the university community Thursday, Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis said the protests, which began as a peaceful demonstration on Tuesday, escalated Wednesday night, leading to the arrests. A university spokeswoman declined to say who directed the police response or if McInnis invited law enforcement onto the campus.

In addition to the arrests, three students have been placed on interim suspension, officials said.

Protesters, McInnis said, harassed fellow students, erected tents on campus in violation of university policy and continued to occupy space that was reserved by other student groups.

“I am deeply saddened that we reached a point where police intervention became necessary,” McInnis said. “University administrators made every effort to avert this outcome. … The police acted professionally and with restraint, and most of our students comported themselves peacefully and with dignity in a manner that contrasts sharply with the scenes we are seeing from many other campuses.”

Stony Brook joins other universities across the country that have seen student protests related to the Israel-Hamas war, in which Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people Oct. 7, followed by Israeli retaliation and bombings in Gaza that have killed more than 34,000 people.

In Manhattan, the NYPD on Tuesday arrested nearly 300 people at Columbia University and City College. Recent protests at Hofstra University and Adelphi University ended peacefully.

Myke Rook, a Stony Brook student who attended Wednesday's demonstration, said: “What we stand for is peaceful protest. We pray. We come together. Muslims, non-Muslims.”

But Camryn Farahmandpour, 22, a senior who is Jewish, said she and her Jewish friends were harassed and intimidated Wednesday by some protesters, who shouted antisemitic insults and made obscene gestures.

While she supports free speech, “It started becoming less of a free speech thing and more of a hostility thing to Jewish students,” she said.

Sister Sanaa Nadim, the school’s Muslim chaplain and co-chair of its Interfaith Center, said some protesters lost family members in Gaza.

“They are angry at the state of affairs that no one is rescuing these people, children and elderly, who are starving to death,” Nadim said, adding that university protesters were not antisemitic. “I don’t think their emotions are anti-Jewish people. … They’re against the actions of the state of Israel.”

McInnis said the demonstrators were repeatedly advised of their rights, reminded that other groups reserved the Staller Steps and told to vacate the area.

“They refused to do so and erected tents, in violation of our policy,” she said. “They also grew increasingly hostile toward other students who were not participating in the demonstration."

Protesters and university administrators reached an impasse Wednesday before campus police, state troopers and Suffolk police moved in and made arrests after an 11 p.m. deadline expired for demonstrators to leave the Staller Center.

Administration officials had earlier agreed to meet Thursday with student leaders but threatened them with disciplinary action, including potential suspension or expulsion, if they remained on the grassy common.

McInnis said administrators had met several times with students going back to February.

“We explained that Stony Brook has no direct investments in Israel or weapons manufacturers, that SBU does not support the BDS movement, and that we will not limit the freedom of our faculty and students to be involved in research, travel, and the free exchange of ideas necessitated by their academic research and scholarship,” she said.

BDS refers to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which promotes economic and cultural boycotts against Israel

Many Jewish students were feeling a sense of fear and intimidation after the two-day protest, said the leader of a campus Jewish center.

Slogans being used “appeared to us as a dog whistle that Jews don’t belong here, Jews don’t belong at Stony Brook,” said Jessica Lemons, executive director of Stony Brook Hillel. The group organized Thursday’s event, called “A Big Jewish Block Party,” which was planned since September.

“I think that a lot of students definitely are troubled by some rhetoric that is being used during protests,” Lemons said. “For the most part students just want their peers to be safe and able to learn and exist in the university environment in a way that feels safe.”

Some protesters Wednesday hoisted signs reading “Zionists Don’t Belong Here” and “Wolfie Hates Zionists,” she said. Stony Brook's school mascot is the Seawolf.

Classes took place Thursday as scheduled and will for the remainder of the semester, with use of the Staller Steps by reservation only. The school's academic semester ends May 15 and graduation is May 17.

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