Nina Davis/Sun Photography Editor

Day Hall student protesters may face additional consequences after their involvement in the encampment.

April 27, 2024

Amid Encampment, Day Hall Occupation’s 22 Arrested Student Protestors Navigate Potential Consequences of Re-Arrest

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Just over one month ago, 22 students occupying Day Hall were arrested for trespassing on University property. On April 17, the students accepted a deal from the District Attorney’s Office for charges against the protestors to expire on May 16, pending no further arrests before then.

Now, demonstrators from March 21 are navigating the potential consequences of participating in further protest activity, namely with the pro-Palestine encampment on the Arts Quad established on Thursday.

On Thursday, encampment participants were informed that they risked arrest or academic suspension if they remained in the area after 8 p.m. At 3:08 p.m. on Friday, four students — including two international graduate students — were notified that they were temporarily suspended by email.

One of these protestors was Nick Wilson ’26, who was also arrested due to the Day Hall occupation. Other Day Hall participants have been seen participating in the encampment with differing degrees of involvement. 

Nick Wilson ’26 is one of four students temporarily suspended on Friday. (Ming DeMers/Senior Photographer)

As the encampment continues for a third day, and the administration committed to further temporary suspensions, student protesters are navigating possibilities of disciplinary action and arrest, with some considering the potential violation of their existing dismissal deal for Day Hall arrests.

Prof. Sujata Gibson, law, principal attorney at The Gibson Law Firm, previously served as assigned counsel for the Day Hall demonstrators through Tompkins County Assigned Counsel

Gibson explained that charges could open back up if protestors violate the terms of the arrest deal, called an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal, also referred to as an ACD, if the Day Hall demonstrators were re-arrested. 

“Now, if the [second] charges were completely flimsy, there may be a way to negotiate that or discuss it. But that would have to be a matter for negotiation,” Gibson said. “The D.A. would have every right to open it back up.”

According to Gibson, past trespassing charges and allegations should not be a factor in determining the severity of a second potential charge. Gibson also explained that breaking the terms of the current ACD could decrease the likelihood that the District Attorney’s Office will provide a similar option again, though she noted there are other factors that go into a decision like that.

Some of the Day Hall participants said they considered the threat of being arrested again changed when deciding upon their involvement in the encampment. 

Maral Asik ’24, one of the arrested protestors from the Day Hall occupation, decided to limit her involvement with the encampment based on her ACD deal. Asik is not an organizer of the encampment or participating inside the encampment.

“Personally, I want to go to grad school. Financially, I’m not prepared to take another semester and have to pay for it if I were to get suspended,” Asik said. “Because [suspensions and arrests] just seem way more likely now, especially because I have a prior record, … I have a risk limit and those things are beyond it.”

Elliot Walsh ’24, another arrested protestor from Day Hall, shared Asik’s decision to limit his involvement with the encampment specifically because of the previous legal action taken against him by the University. 

“For me, it feels like the more that I’ve accrued, the more nerve wracking it is to do anything,” Walsh said. “The reasons behind the sort of discipline — legally and within the University — that people have gotten is intended to have this chilling effect to discourage people from continuing.”

Students in the encampment speak with Christopher Cowen, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Cornell on Thursday. (Nina Davis/Sun Photography Editor)

On Thursday, University administrators told protestors to remove tents by 1 p.m. or face disciplinary action, up to and including suspension, and to vacate the premises by 8 p.m., marked with threats of arrests and suspension. Neither deadline was met. 

But no students were arrested and the four students — who represent a small fraction of the approximately 50 encampment participants — were not suspended till Friday afternoon.

The University’s delayed response to the Arts Quad encampments differs from its immediate arrest of 22 students and two staff members at the Day Hall occupation when they passed the 6 p.m. deadline to leave. 

In an interview with The Sun on Friday before his suspension, Wilson said he believed that due to the encampment’s public location, the administration avoided immediate arrests to limit public image concerns.

Nick Wilson ’26 and another protestor hold up arrest reports and appearance tickets after being released from Day Hall by Cornell University Police Department officers on March 21. (Julia Nagel/Sun Senior Photographer)

“[The University] can’t avoid the fact that at the end of the day, we’re peers, we’re friends, we’re classmates, we’re people that people recognize on this campus, and that if they publicly do something to harm us, that’s something that’s going to happen in the public eye,” Wilson said. 

When asked about the risk of legal or disciplinary action, especially since he had already been arrested Wilson said, “Right now my friends and my classmates are under attack. … And there’s really no consequence, I think, that would keep me and keep many others from standing with my friends.“

At around 7:45 p.m. on Thursday evening, over 100 people formed a human chain around the encampment as the 8 p.m. deadline to vacate the premises neared. Wilson stated that the display of community support provided additional security in the face of disciplinary or legal action.

Protestors link arms around the encampment on Thursday at around 7:45 p.m. (Ming DeMers/Senior Photographer)

“Ultimately, our safety is in the hands of our community and for students who have a friend in the encampment or know someone who has been involved in this action,” Wilson said. “It falls to those students to stand up for their friends to stand up for their community and ensure their safety.”

The encampment remains dedicated to protesting despite the recent suspensions. 

In a statement released by the Coalition for Mutual Liberation — the organization behind the encampment — after the four suspensions, the organization reaffirmed its commitment to continuing the protest and advocating for its demands

“They seek to intimidate other students to keep us from fighting for collective, mutual liberation,” the statement read. “But we are not scared. We will not be intimidated. And we will not stop demanding justice and liberation.”

While Asik has limited her involvement in the encampment, she said protestors are determined to continue peacefully demonstrating amid potential legal and academic consequences due to their care for the cause. 

“I think that the value of civil disobedience is saying ‘I care about this so much [that] I am not going to harm you,’” Asik said. “‘I’m going to harm myself.’”

Avery Wang ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].