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'ASU Liberated Zone' hosts press conference, condemns treatment of student protesters

Speakers at the event criticized ASU's "punitive" response and the "double standard" of police treatment during the arrests made Saturday morning

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ASU alumnus Tarteel Alimam speaks at a press conference hosted by the "ASU Liberated Zone" in front of Old Main on Thursday, May 2, 2024 in Tempe.

Speakers and organizers gathered at the northwest corner of Alumni Lawn on Thursday morning to discuss the "punitive" treatment of students by ASU administration and police the week prior, according to event speakers.

On April 26, three people were arrested at a pro-Palestine encampment on Alumni Lawn. Despite police presence and warnings to clear the area by 11 p.m., the encampment continued to grow throughout the day, eventually amassing to around 400 protestors that evening.

Police advanced on the encampment at around midnight on Friday, arresting a total of 69 people for violations of Arizona Revised Statute 13-1502 and Arizona Revised Statute 13-2902.

READ MORE: ASU confirms 69 people arrested outside of Old Main in response to encampment early Saturday morning

On Wednesday afternoon, the Instagram account for the "ASU Liberated Zone" announced a press conference for the following morning at Alumni Lawn in Tempe. 

The event consisted of various speakers from the ASU community, including ASU alumni, some student government representatives and faculty. The speakers echoed demands that ASU divest from financial ties to Israel, reinstate MECHA de ASU and revoke punitive actions against protesting students.

The event organizers read a statement they said represented the views of students who were arrested. They addressed a double standard of police treatment at the encampment protest. During the police advance on the encampment early Saturday morning, groups of counter-protesters were filmed aiding the police in the disposal of tents.

"(They) got to join the police in disposing of our property and community-donated supplies, a total waste of resources that directly defies ASU's sustainability goals and vision," the statement said. "In the meantime, the constitutional religious rights of our Muslim women were violated as ASU police and Maricopa county sheriff's officers removed their hijabs upon arresting them."

Additionally, they claimed that medical staff were injured by ASU police while attempting to administer care to an arrestee. They said the treatment in the first holding facility was "inequitable", as face masks were removed inconsistently and access to a phone took over 15 hours for some detainees.

The number of ASU students arrested has increased from 15, as previously reported by the University, to 20, according to an updated statement by the University on May 2. The University also stated that they are aware of the hijab removal incident and a formal review of the events will be taken on by the ASU Office of General Counsel.

Press conference attendees listening to speakers at an event hosted by the "ASU Liberated Zone" in front of Old Main on Thursday, May 2, 2024 in Tempe.

Kelly Baur, the assembly president for the Graduate and Professional Student Association and a speaker at the event, addressed ASU's hostility towards the recent protests. According to her, this conduct is nothing new for the administration.

"One thing I've noticed and would like to share with all of you today is how ASU has become a more hostile place for student organizing on campus, and how the code of conduct has been weaponized against student activists, not just now, but in the past five years," Baur said.

She pointed out the additional struggles faced by international and out-of-state student protesters, as some are currently barred from their on-campus housing.

The final speaker of the event was Crystal Jackson, a Jewish associate professor at the School of Social Transformation. She spoke about ASU's role in protecting student activism.

Press conference attendees listening to speakers at an event hosted by the "ASU Liberated Zone" in front of Old Main on Thursday, May 2, 2024 in Tempe.

"What is the role of education, if not liberation?" Jackson said during the press conference. "Instead of innovating new ways of engagement as other colleges are doing across the country, ASU chose the path to violence."

"The School of Social Transformation is its own interdisciplinary school that ASU put together on purpose," said Jackson later in an interview. "This is what we do. This is what we teach. And yet when it is actually enacted, or they see it happening, it becomes a point of repression and suppression and violence as opposed to expression and protecting freedom."

Jackson discussed the intersectional coalition of organizers, and how those collaborations have resonated with her.

"My fear is actually that in saying that all Jewish people think the same, that in and of itself is antisemitic, and that ASU is weaponizing that antisemitism," said Jackson.

Following the speeches, the group of supporters dispersed from Alumni Lawn within the hour.

Other encampment protests, like the one at UCLA that has lasted multiple days, have sparked up on college campuses around the nation, causing universities to increase their vigilance and be concerned with safety. 

"ASU’s first priority is to create a safe and secure environment for all those on campus," the University said in a statement on May 2. "This includes addressing the safety of individuals who come to campus to speak, listen, protest and counter-protest."

As for the students who were placed on temporary suspension, they received an email the ASU Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities detailing what the rules of the suspension entail, as well as the appeal process, according to the University.

The ASU Office of General Counsel will be conducting an investigation and review of the events on April 26 and 27. The University plans to update the community with its findings.

Other protests in the wake of the encampment arrests:

The day before the press conference, on Wednesday evening, a group of around 50 protesters marched around the Alumni Lawn barricade with flags and signs. ASU PD was vigilant but not involved, and the protest dispersed peacefully around 8 p.m. that evening.

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 5:50 to include a statement from the University. This is a developing story and may be updated.

Edited by Sophia Ramirez and Alexis Heichman

Reach the reporter at and follow @emphasisonno on Twitter. 

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River GrazianoScience and Technology Editor

River Graziano has been the Science and Technology editor at The State Press since Spring 2023. They are from Phoenix, Arizona, and currently study creative writing and engineering.

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