Brandeis Police report offers new information about Nov. 10 arrests
The Justice acquired case reports by various Brandeis police officers from the pro-Palestine demonstration.
On Nov. 22, an anonymous faculty member contacted the Justice with a redacted copy of the police arrest report from the pro-Palestine demonstration that ended in seven arrests — three of which were Brandeis students and four were individuals unaffiliated with the University. The complete report includes testimonies from six Brandeis Police Department officers who detailed their accounts of the demonstration’s escalation.
These reports classify the protest as a “disturbance” with Operations Lieutenant Oren Wright describing the department’s preemptive measures to surveil the demonstration. He wrote that he, alongside Chief of Public Safety Matthew Rushton and Sergeant Dustin Botelho, led a “briefing with all public safety personnel regarding the planned protest.” Lieutenant Wright outlined that all officers were instructed to proceed by the following guidelines:
“1. If contact is made with a protester, they are to be identified. All Brandeis community members are to furnish their University ID upon request.
2. If a protester is not a member of the Brandeis community, they are to be escorted off the property. If, after three warnings, they refuse to leave, a supervisor should be called to the scene. If the supervisor finds that deescalating the party and requests to leave are being ignored, then the party in question will be arrested for trespassing.
3. If there is any ‘hate speech’ or talk of committing violent acts, the protesters will be warned by a member of Brandeis University Student Affairs professional staff to cease immediately. If the rhetoric persists, then the protesters will be dispersed or arrested if they refuse to disperse.
4. A designated area for counter protesters had also been set up in front of the Shapiro Campus Center directly across from Bernstein-Marcus Building. Officers are to guide any counter-protesters to this area assuming, based on online conversations, that Jewish students may arrive to support Israel’s views on the war.”
Wright added that the Waltham Police Department and Police Reform Insight Group private security were also “enlisted to assist in the protest” in the event that there is violence or refusal to follow a dispersal order. He cited a joint email sent to the community hours before the protest by Vice President of Student Affairs Andrea Dine and Chief Rushton that warned “as a small, private institution, [the University] will not allow outside, or third-party groups or individuals to congregate on campus” in an effort to focus its resources on safe assembly for community members. Lieutenant Wright’s report specifically points to a “No Trespassing” sign that is posted on an informational booth at the campus’ main entrance.
The “hate speech” mentioned in the guidelines for participating officers was consistent with Dine and Rushton’s email, which said that the University’s Principles of Free Speech and Expression “excludes speech that constitutes threat or harassment.”
Although Wright recognized that the protest refrained from using speech that the University had deemed threatening for the first half-hour of the protest, he designated that “Over time, this changed as the group began having speeches and chanting,” with two individuals leading the chants over bullhorns. Furthermore, Lieutenant Wright reported that the two lead speakers were using an “animated and passionate tone” that the rest of the attendees matched which, in his eyes, served to “escalate the energy and incite the crowd.”
Among these widespread chants was the claim: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which was one of the phrases that Dine and Rushton’s email highlighted. Lieutenant Wright said that this particular phrase is “inherently understood by Jewish people as a call for the destruction of the state of Israel, and by default, its people,” hence its ban on campus. He went on to define the group's use of “intifada” as “inherently understood as a call for rebellion to break away from the state of Israel.”
While there is an active debate about the phrases’ definitions and implications, administration banned them because they feel that some of the community understands them in those threatening and hateful ways. “The use of language that invokes violence, death or annihilation … frightens and silences cohorts of the community,” Dine and Rushton wrote.
The Associated Press claims that “like most of the Mideast conflict, what the [phrases] mean depends on who is telling the story — and which audience is hearing it.” For instance, the American Jewish Committee asserts that “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” is antisemitic because it is a “rallying cry for terrorist groups and their sympathizers,” such as Hamas, which called for Israel’s destruction in its original governing charter in 1988 and launched an attack on Israeli citizens on Oct. 7. On the other hand, Al Jazeera acknowledges that the slogan is also a promise of freedom to some Palestinians and the “need for equality for all inhabitants of historic Palestine,” according to author and lecturer Nimer Sultany, who is a Palestinian citizen of Israel.
In his report, Wright observed that the crowd’s usage of the slogan and others like it was having a startling impact on campus and those unaffiliated with the demonstration. “I had observed community members exit from the building using the doors adjacent to the ‘Great Lawn,’ become alarmed by the crowd, and abruptly walk in a different direction,” Wright wrote. He added that Botelho informed him of an onlooker who said that the crowd was “chanting hate rhetoric bothersome to [them] and to Jewish people.”
Given these observations, Wright concluded that the demonstration created a “hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that served no legitimate purpose of the defendant; their actions had affected the public in an alarming way and recklessly created a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.”
Lieutenant Wright also reported a group in attendance that Chief Rushton observed on camera from the department’s on-campus emergency operations center:
“There appeared to be group members facing away from the group and watching officers and other people walking by. There were approximately 7-8 of these people. All appeared to be college-age young adults and were all dressed differently except for wearing a red or maroon bandana tied around their necks and large blue backpacks that appeared full. Upon further observation, they all appeared to be taking their direction from an unknown [individual].”
Wright added that this behavior was consistent with “paid instigators/agitators within protests” whose only objective is to escalate tensions between police officers and protesters, which would provoke a confrontation.
“They usually start with observing police, counting the number of officers present and the perceived tolerance of the crowd. They then typically pull a provocative stunt or action in order to elicit a police response. They will normally encourage the leaders to resist any requests from the police and to escalate the demonstration,” Lieutenant Wright wrote.
The concept of having “outside agitators” at protests stems from the Civil Rights Movement, according to The New York Times. Robin D.G. Kelley, a social movements historian at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The New York Times that there were Black communists in the South decades prior to the Civil Rights Movement, and that outside agitation “stemmed in part from from the racist notion that insurrectionary ideas had to come from somewhere else because Black people in the South could not come up with them on their own.” The article states that “the term ‘outside agitator’ often implied links to communism, which officials used as a boogeyman to distract from demonstrators’ demands for basic human rights.”
Lieutenant Wright spoke to the individual who he and Chief Rushton identified as the group’s leader, adding that he identified himself as the “marshal” of the protest, despite being unaffiliated with the University. The marshal refused to explain what that role entailed.
The U.S. Department of Justice outlines that demonstration marshals are in charge of ensuring that the event remains safe, serving as a “point of contact” between its organizers and those in attendance.
At the protest on Nov. 10, one of the student organizers identified a number of individuals as “safety marshals.” The student instructed other demonstrators to seek out the help of the marshals if “people are getting harassed.” As of press time, the Justice was unable to confirm whether or not the individual identified by Wright and Rushton was one of the safety marshals attending the protest.
After two warnings to leave campus, the marshal agreed to leave, Wright reported. He added, “Approximately five minutes later, Brandeis Police Dispatch radioed me and other officers on the scene that the [party] who was escorted off campus had returned and was walking near the [Shapiro Admissions Center] across the street from Shapiro Campus Center.” Detective Jon Santeusanio and Officer Philip Burns arrested the individual for trespassing “without incident.”
In his report, Santeausanio wrote that he and Burns were directed to respond to the Ridgewood A area. They were notified to be on the lookout for a subject who had been given a verbal trespassing warning to leave the property but soon returned. “The subject was described as a white male, early to mid sixties and wearing a light colored fedora hat with a multi-colored jacket with dark pants.”
Burns and Santeausanio asked the individual to stand, to which he complied. They arrested the individual for trespassing. After placing him in flex cuffs, they searched him. He refused to give any information about his identity. On him, he had a cell phone and a set of keys but no wallet. Wright confirmed that the arrestee, who was later identified, was the subject he escorted off campus moments ago.
Wright wrote that at the same time the officers arrested the protest marshal, Vice President Dine “approached the protest group as they were chanting antisemitic rhetoric. This was the third time this group had engaged in this specific language. At this time, the group was advised to cease and desist these chants, or they would be dispersed.” For the fourth time, the group defied the warning and resumed chanting, Wright noted.
“At this time, Chief Rushton gave the order for a dispersal order to be given,” he wrote. “Sgt. Botelho advised all officers to move closer to our location near the great lawn as a dispersal order was to be given.”
Both Detective Jon D. Santeusanio and Officer Thomas Espada noted in their separate case reports that Wright issued the first dispersal order at approximately 4:30 p.m.
In his report, Wright wrote that fewer than 20 participants began to exit the premises. After a second order was given, police waited 10 minutes to signal the emergency blue lights atop the car and initiated a third dispersal order, all of which garnered little response. After the fourth order, “there appeared to be a movement to leave as a collective crowd, which was the desired intent.” At the same time, there were two parties with bullhorns that encouraged participants not to leave, and the group ended up not leaving despite the police’s attempts to request the group to disperse peacefully.
“Chief Rushton instructed a group of six officers to begin to walk and clear the walkway just outside of the Shapiro Campus Center,” Wright said. “Officers then began to move in groups, arms stretched out from left to right, commonly used to help guide and usher people in a certain direction.” As officers moved closer to the students, there was movement of some students starting to leave. There were still chants by one of the bullhorn holders to not move. As a result, the police decided to place the party in custody to “continue de-escalating the crowd rather than continuing confusion and escalation,” according to Wright.
At this point, many participants began to record the officers with their phones. As Botelho and Wright took hold of each arm of the male with the bullhorn, they identified themselves as police officers and advised the male that he was under arrest. According to Botelho’s, Wright’s, and Evan’s reports, the individual attempted to resist and pull free.
Wright stated that they “guided, supported, and directed this male to the ground [who] had knowingly and actively resisted our attempt to arrest while I was acting under my official capacity as a sworn police officer.”
Botelho wrote that as they directed the protester to the ground, he could hear and see protesters closing in on their position. He then observed a liquid substance splash around them, but it did not hit him. Botelho noted that as Wright left to assist other officers with dispersing the crowd, he and Evans attempted to handcuff the party on the ground.
In her report, Evans stated that as they brought him to the ground, the protester dropped his bullhorn. She moved the bullhorn away from them for safety. “I took control of his legs and feet to prevent him from kicking out or getting back up,” Evans wrote. “I grabbed his feet and then placed my knees on either side of his calves and legs and sat my weight back on his heels … While we were gaining control of [him], we all were splashed with water by another individual throwing it from a cup at us. This individual was also placed under arrest by another group of officers.”
While Evans assumed control of his lower body, Botelho was positioned on the left side of the protester with his knee outside of the protester’s left torso.
According to the officers, the protester continued to attempt to resist arrest, so they guided his hands to the small of his back while “maintaining a rear wristlock” and placed flex cuffs on his wrists. Botelho and Evans then turned him on his right side and “conducted a pat-frisk of his outer garments.”
They then asked the protester if he was injured, to which he explained that his left knee may have been injured. Botelho’s report states that the protester stated he recently dislocated the knee a few days earlier while Evan’s report states that the protester “had a history of dislocating it.”
The protester was offered medical attention but refused. He was transported to the Waltham Police Station for booking via Waltham Police Prisoner Transport. During booking, he was asked again if he sustained any injuries. He notified that his left knee was still in pain, commenting that it may be dislocated, according to Botelho’s report. However, he once again refused medical attention. Botelho captured a photo of the knee, which will be scanned into the case file.
On Nov. 16, the Justice interviewed the arrestee with the dislocated knee cap. “They held my leg in a way so that my knee cap in particular was held out of place,” the individual, who is a member of the Revolutionary Student Organization, said. During the interview, they also asserted that the police put their hands in their pants. Unlike the knee injury, there is nothing in the police report that validates these claims.
Another RSO member stated during the interview that the “police do not keep us safe, and police should not be the method of safety that is advocated by the University.”
Santeusanio and Espada worked to diffuse demonstrators after they witnessed the protesters throw a cup of water at Botelho and Evans. According to Santeusanio’s second case report, “protesters within the crowd became unruly and started to advance on these officers … This observation caused me to fear that myself as well as other officers were at risk of being physically assaulted by unruly protesters. In response I drew my department issued expandable baton and brought in a two-hand horizontal carry position.”
As he issued verbal commands for protesters to disperse, the crowd began to retreat. “My department issued baton was only used in a display fashion; at no point was it used as an impact device. Its purpose on display was to prevent and defend against what I perceived to be an assaultive crowd of protesters,” he wrote.
Similarly, Espada noticed a crowd gathering around Wright and Botelho as they brought the protester with the bullhorn to the ground. “Concerned for their safety, I ran past both officers positioning myself between them and the protesters,” he wrote. When he felt the water hitting the back of his head and left side of his face, he began to perceive the protesters as assaultive and became concerned for his safety. “I proceeded to draw my department issued expandable baton into an outside the arm carry … It should be noted that I at no point used my baton as an impact tool. It was only used for display purposes.” Along with Santeusanio, he drove the crowd of protesters to Loop Road to disperse.
Simultaneously, Wright — who had left the protester with the bullhorn with Botelho and Evans in order to assist other police officers — joined Rushton to assist “with dispersing and attempting to de-escalate the crowd, who were now yelling, screaming, and videotaping, demanding the release of prisoners or just outright attempting to interfere with the few arrests that were taking place at the time.”
One of the non-student protesters had been asked to leave the campus several times, but continued to “harass officers” and “incite continued resistance from the police,” Wright wrote. The protester was placed into custody to get the crowd to de-escalate after attempting to ignore the police despite being told he was trespassing and being placed under arrest. Wright described what this protester was saying to have “no legitimate purpose other than to excite the crowd and further escalate tensions between the public and the police.”
Another individual, Sergeant Jeff Callahan of the Waltham Police Department, stated that someone was “observed throwing punches at those police officers” and was placed under arrest.
The final arrestee was a Brandeis student who stood “directly at the rear of the prisoner transport van where arrestees from the protest were being held.” Due to her refusal to obey requests to leave the premises or back away from the officers, “She was placed under arrest for failure to vacate the area.”
In Espada’s second case report, he wrote that he asked the female repeatedly to vacate the area. She was once again asked to leave by Callahan and refused to leave, “creating an unnecessary risk to officers and prisoners.”
According to Santeusanio’s third report, he witnessed a white female with gray hair approach the officers and reach over their backs with a camera or recording device. He saw that the officers were unaware of this and her proximity. “Concerned that this female may be attempting to interfere with these police officers performing their duties, I immediately went to their assistance and placed my left arm between the female and the officers. While holding my left arm out and using it as a guide, I then began to walk this female party backwards, away from the officers … During this effort to separate her from the officers, my left forearm came into contact with the female’s front, upper torso.” He issued verbal commands for her to retreat and ordered her to leave.
Espada stated that her “actions created a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that served no legitimate purpose of the defendant's; their actions had affected the public in an alarming way and recklessly created a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.”
She was searched by Officer Catherine Jordan and placed into the back of Waltham Police Cruiser, separate from male arrestees.
Espada wrote that he later learned that the female “would not leave until she was arrested, which is not a legitimate or lawful purpose.”
— Justice Editor in Chief Isabel Roseth contributed reporting.