Photo by Tulane Hullaballoo:

Louisiana State Police on Tulane's campus, 4/30/2024

NOCOP Condemns Police Violence against Students and Peaceful Protesters at Tulane University

Issued May 4, 2024

New Orleans for Community Oversight of the Police (NOCOP) condemns the administration of Tulane University for calling upon the Tulane Police Department (TUPD), the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), and Louisiana State Police (LSP) to repeatedly attack students and their community allies at a peaceful protest against the genocide of the Palestinian People early last week. We commend members of both Tulane and Loyola chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) who orchestrated the Tulane encampment in solidarity with the wave of divestment protests sweeping American college campuses. Students have succeeded in exposing the deep level of financial investment that many US universities have in weapons and surveillance technology that aid in the displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government AND the brutalization of Black and brown people here at home by ever-more-militarized police.

Instead of choosing to meet and negotiate with student protesters, Tulane President Michael Fitts, who personally traveled to Israel as recently as 2018 to deepen Tulane's investments and connections there, chose to call in the Louisiana State Police in full riot gear, armed with both lethal and non-lethal weapons to brutalize, terrorize and arrest peaceful protesters. The Louisiana State Police were the most violent and unaccountable police force available to be deployed at the scene of the protest and they boast an extensive criminal history. At this time they are still under investigation by the US Department of Justice for the murder of Ronald Greene, the beating of Aaron Bowman, and numerous other counts of lawless misconduct that have no place in New Orleans or on any college campus. Given the State Police's extensive record of violent misconduct, it is nothing short of a miracle that no one was killed, though two demonstrators were hospitalized and many were injured at the hands of police.

Even more disgracefully, Tulane University has repeatedly made the absurd claim that this brutality was necessary for the students' own “safety.” The only thing that made the protest “unsafe” was the presence of hundreds of militarized police along with aggression, threats and attempts at provocation by pro-genocide counter-protestors whose appalling and harassing behavior Tulane still has not addressed publicly. Most disturbingly, several white Tulane students who opposed the protest were observed by bystanders, police liaisons and in full view of representatives from the Office of the Independent Police Monitor calling 911 and pretending to be attacked by Palestinian protesters in the hopes of conjuring even more police violence. Such false calls to emergency services are an incredibly dangerous and illegal practice that should be condemned along with all other instances of white Americans summoning police under false pretenses to do violence to people of color. Tulane must investigate its own students who used this racist and unlawful tactic against a peaceful protest that had a significant number of Black and brown participants.

We likewise condemn NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick who endorsed the plan to deploy LSP with weapons of war at Tulane, coming to the scene personally to supervise the calamity that followed. The use of NOPD's mounted patrol to stampede students who had locked arms to protect the encampment was also a profoundly dangerous decision by officers on the scene Monday—horses are lethal weapons when used to ram a crowd unable to easily escape.

Tulane University Police Department's own record of misconduct is also tremendously troubling, and TUPD played a significant role in the violence. As of April of 2023, when compared to all other universities in Louisiana, TUPD had the highest number of officers who joined their department after having been previously fired (or resigning in lieu of being fired) by other police departments. Among that cadre of previously-disgraced TUPD officers there were an astonishing 66 allegations of misconduct accrued before their hiring by Tulane. Apparently this record of lawlessness did not trouble the administrators of Tulane University sufficiently to keep them from offering employment to such problem-officers or entrusting them with student safety. Some of these disgraced officers were involved in the initial attack on student protesters when the protest marched to campus to set up the encampment on Monday.

NOCOP further condemns Tulane University for the fact that arrested Tulane students, many of whom were already traumatized by police violence, had been suspended and banned from their own campus housing upon release from jail. Tulane left them homeless with no means to access their personal belongings, medications or campus heath resources for their injuries or mental trauma. We were particularly disturbed to learn that Tulane's student health insurance plan (TSHIP) explicitly does not cover care for injuries incurred as a result of “civil disorder,” and given Tulane's dubious characterization of the protest as “dangerous,” there has been a good deal of confusion and worry among students about whether their health insurance would cover medical or mental healthcare sought as a result of police violence at the protest. We deplore this situation and believe it demonstrates the hollowness of the administration's claims of concern for "student safety."

NOCOP proudly endorses the demands made by Tulane and Loyola SDS that their universities divest from corporations that supply arms, fuel, or technology that aids the Israeli government in the ongoing genocide and starvation of the Palestinian people. We further endorse the demand made by Tulane faculty in their public letter to Tulane's administration that suspended students, faculty and staff be immediately reinstated without penalty. We unite with Tulane faculty's condemnation against all attempts to repress the free speech of students that speak out and organize for a free Palestine.

At the same time, we uplift student and community leaders belonging to Jewish Voice for Peace New Orleans, which publicly endorsed and participated in the Tulane encampment, with at least one student-member suffering violent arrest. JVP New Orleans has stated that it is “deeply offended” by Tulane's “completely false and dangerous claims of antisemitism at the protest,” reminding that on Tuesday April 30th, the entire encampment even joined in Jewish prayer to mark the end of Passover. Tulane's threats of suspension and firing towards students, faculty and staff who were present at the scene of the protest are a tactic to further silence eyewitnesses capable of contesting the university's baseless allegations that the protest was violent or hateful.

Finally, we would like to note that it is the saddest of ironies which finds our membership drafting this statement on the anniversary of the 1970 Kent State massacre of student Vietnam-protesters by the Ohio National Guard. In the years since that episode of militarized violence against campus free speech, the incident has come to be widely regarded by the public as a disgrace, and has since been acknowledged as a horrible mistake by Kent State's leadership. This anniversary is a sobering reminder that militarization of our communities and university campuses does not—and will never—keep us safe. From New Orleans to Palestine, we share a vested interest in ending the violence of occupation, white-supremacy, and genocide.