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 29, 2024

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Loss of Position

Institution(s):University of Georgia

Region & Country:Americas | United States of America

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On April 29, 2024, University of Georgia (UGA) campus police forcibly arrested 16 protesters, including nine students, who were participating in a pro-Palestine encampment on campus.

On the morning of April 29, the university’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Athens, GA community members established an encampment on UGA’s lawn near the administration building. The group demanded that the university disclose its financial investments, divest from businesses associated with Israeli military actions, and show solidarity with Palestinians.

After the encampment was established, university officials instructed the protesters to remove the tents and barricades they had set up. The protest was peaceful, with students holding signs and chanting, “We demand action now.” The UGA administration stated that camping and tents are not allowed under the University Freedom of Expression Policy. Shortly thereafter, UGA police forcefully pushed the protesters to the ground and arrested 16 people, including nine UGA students, on charges of criminal trespassing and transported them to the Athens-Clarke County Jail. All 16 arrested were released from jail by evening on the same day

The university suspended all nine arrested UGA students for the unauthorized encampment protest, barring them from campus pending a conduct hearing.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrests of peaceful student protesters by police. SAR is further concerned about a university taking disciplinary actions against students for their non-violent expression. While university authorities have an obligation to take all reasonable measures to ensure the safety of students and university personnel and should endeavor to prevent disruptions that inappropriately inhibit the functioning of or access to higher education, they must do so consistent with their responsibility to ensure academic freedom and free expression on campus. The punishment of nonviolent student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.