SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: April 27, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):University of Mary Washington

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 27, 2024, police arrested 12 people, including nine students, at a pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Mary Washington.

On April 26, 2024, the university’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) established an encampment, setting up approximately 6 tents, singing, dancing and chanting in Jefferson Square on the UMW’s campus. While university officials initially permitted the protest, later that afternoon, they asked the organizers to remove the tents citing safety concerns. The students compiled and removed the tents by evening.

The following afternoon, on April 27, the group re-erected their tents. University authorities instructed them to vacate the area and disperse. However, 12 people, including 9 students remained. Police arrested all 12 on trespassing charges and transported them to the Rappahannock Regional Jail. Several were later released on their own recognizance.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students by police. State authorities have a responsibility to respect and refrain from restricting or punishing the nonviolent exercise of the right to free speech and freedom of assembly. Likewise, university authorities have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students exercising their rights peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally.