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Students still seeking answers after University at Buffalo protest

The University at Buffalo crowds have cleared, but questions remain after police arrested 15 people during Wednesday’s pro-Palestine protest on campus.

Of those arrested, 10 were not students at the university or otherwise affiliated with the school, according to a UB press release.

Current demonstrations, whether at UB or other schools, are unique because they’re demanding transparency about funding, as well as focusing on the Israel-Palestine conflict, freshman Mylien Lai said.

Covering the event for the Spectrum student newspaper was a valuable experience, but also a harrowing one, Lai said.

“Everything was a ticking time bomb," she said. "Like, even though there were moments of de-escalation and the encampment transition to a sit-in, there was still a lot of tension in the air about what was going to happen.”

While protests are allowed on campus, creating barricades or creating indoor and outdoor encampments are among prohibited actions laid out in a 2020 UB policy.

Senior Dominick Matarese says he was surprised the situation remained calm after protesters were ordered by police to take their encampment down.

But escalation was looming, with the ultimatum to disperse by 8:20 p.m. or face arrest.

“They got on the bullhorn and said, like, ‘Thank you guys for taking the encampment down. You have the right to free speech.’ You know, there's people cheering in the crowd," Matarese said. "And I was like, ‘okay, so nothing is going happen.' But then the order was given that, like at dusk, at like 8:15, everyone has to be gone or arrests are going start being made. And it almost seemed like a foregone conclusion."

Demonstrations are not allowed to continue overnight, according to UB's policy on protests, but there is no stipulation listed for when the deadline occurs. The university's press release does not mention why 8:20 p.m. was chosen to shut down the demonstration.

Using the pseudonym “Dia,” one of the organizers from SUNY Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions spoke with a WBFO-affiliated employee who also is Muslim.

One of the primary goals of the protest was having UB remove any monetary affiliation, like stocks, endowments or partnerships, from companies felt to be involved with human rights violations in Palestine, Dia said.

“UB Foundation isn't even transparent. Students do not have a seat at the UB foundation, faculty don't have a seat, so we have no idea what they're investing in," she said. "They just confirmed to us that they weren't contemplating divestment.”

A moment that left an imprint on Lai was when she was photographing, and a woman on the ground, being handcuffed while multiple officers stood over her.

Protesters and police have long since dispersed, but Lai says she expects the scars and impact to linger.