Atlanta police release footage of Emory University protest arrests

Atlanta police have released hours of body camera footage showing officers arresting pro-Palestinian protesters on Emory University’s campus last month.

More than two dozen people were detained April 25, including at least two Emory professors, after student activists set up an encampment at the private university.

The footage released late Wednesday appeared to show several bystanders yelling at officers after they moved in and began arresting people.

“What are we doing? These are our students,” one person can be heard shouting at police.

Protests at Emory and other college campuses are in response to Israel’s monthslong offensive in Gaza that has displaced an estimated 1.7 million Palestinians and left more than 35,000 dead. Israel’s action followed the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages.

Police arrest pro-Palestinian protesters at an encampment at the Emory campus in Atlanta on Thursday, April 25, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)


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Emory President Gregory Fenves has come under fire for what some students and professors have called a “heavy-handed” crackdown on an otherwise peaceful protest. Gov. Brian Kemp signaled support for the response to campus encampments at the time saying, “Send a message: we are not going to allow Georgia to become the next Columbia University.”

Police cleared a building on the Columbia campus protesters occupied and the New York university later canceled its main commencement ceremony. Emory’s main commencement moved from campus to a Gwinnett County arena, citing security concerns.

The day of the arrests on the Emory campus, police used chemical irritants to disperse demonstrators and at least one person was stunned with a Taser during his arrest, cellphone video showed. Officers dismantled the makeshift encampment on the university’s quad, detaining 28 people and arresting 23.

Similar scenes played out at college campuses across the U.S. in recent weeks, including at the University of Georgia, amid growing frustration over the Israel-Hamas war.

Atlanta police said the department was called to Emory last month, along with Georgia State troopers, to assist campus officers after protesters refused to leave.

“At their request for assistance to address trespass issues by some protesters, members of APD were engaged and only detained individuals who did not comply with the dispersal order,” the department said in a statement. “We prioritize the safety and well-being of our college communities in and around the Atlanta area.”

Police arrest pro-Palestinian protesters who set up an encampment at the Emory campus in Atlanta on Thursday, April 25, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Undergraduate students voted earlier this month in favor of a no-confidence resolution in the school’s president. About 3,400 of Emory’s 8,100 undergrads voted in the referendum. Of those, 2,499 voted in favor of the motion, 844 voted against it and 58 students abstained.

Fenves originally said that “highly organized, outside protesters” were responsible for the pro-Palestinian demonstration, but later walked those comments back after it became clear that the majority of those arrested were members of the Emory community.

Faculty members from two of the university’s colleges also approved no-confidence resolutions in Fenves, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported.

The College of Arts and Sciences faculty were the first to vote, with three out of four of 477 faculty members there supporting a no confidence measure on May 3.

“There was no evidence of violence on the part of protesters, and no disruption of teaching and research activities,” said an email the faculty senate used to announce the outcome of that vote. “What was disruptive —profoundly so — was the conduct of the University administration that violated multiple College and University policies and is an affront to everything Emory stands for.”

The faculty of the Rollins School of Public Health voted no-confidence in Fenves’ leadership last week after two days of balloting. It was only a slight majority in favor, with 86 voting for the no confidence measure, or 55.5%. However, the other 44.5% voted to censure him.

The votes were non-binding but signal to the university’s board of trustees that the majority of faculty members in those colleges would like to see the president replaced. None of Emory’s 38 trustees responded to previous requests for comment.

Attorney Suri Chadha Jimenez, who represents three people arrested at Emory last month, said the level of violence shown by officers at the scene was “way higher” than was required to handle the situation.

“The level of violence that they came in there with was not proportional to the amount of resistance, if any, that the protesters had,” Chadha Jimenez said Thursday. “The protesters were just standing there and walking away slowly and these (officers) were tasing them, pushing them, kicking them, slamming their heads into the concrete.”

Viral video of one arrest appeared to show officers pressing a woman’s face to the ground.

“Oh my God,” she yelled. “I am a professor!”

Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs said the organization is working to set up a meeting with Emory’s president to discuss what occurred on campus. He also calls for all charges to be dismissed.

”I’ve seen all the protesters’ footage in real-time and after the fact, and I think all they were doing was exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceful protest,” Griggs said. “We appreciate the transparency from APD but it should have been released in real time like the protesters’ footage was.”

Body camera footage shows officers carrying a demonstrator on Emory University's campus last month after police were called in to break up a pro-Palestinian protest.

Credit: Atlanta Police Department

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Credit: Atlanta Police Department