Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Resistance erupts at Tulane protest for Palestine

Logo for the Jones X Macdonald Defense Committee. The defense committee was formed following the arrest of Toni Jones, who had her first court appearance on April 23. Courtesy of the Jones X Macdonald Defense Committee.

Following a dispute between a student and professor at Tulane University and the subsequent arrest of an advocate supporting the student last week, members of Tulane’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society alongside local activist organizations are joining together to challenge sanctions against protesting.

On March 13, Rory Macdonald, Tulane student and member of the Tulane chapter of SDS, was in an altercation with Tulane professor Walter Isaacson at a New Orleans Entrepreneur Week Panel.

Macdonald was one of 17 individuals asked by New Orleans Stop Helping Israel’s Ports to speak out at the panel with the intent of peacefully interrupting the various oil companies presenting.

Before the incident, Macdonald had seen Isaacson around campus and recognized him before standing up to speak, according to Macdonald.

“I began to say something that I had thought about a lot, specifically talking to the representative of Louisiana State University. LSU and Tulane are both involved in the US-Israel Energy Center, which is providing research and taking grant money for these universities from the government to provide research to help Israel steal fossil fuel resources from Palestine,” they said. “As soon as I began speaking, he stood up and came over to me very aggressively.”

Macdonald expressed confusion over their treatment from the Tulane professor, as they said the demonstrators prior had been asked to leave politely or left on their own after saying their piece, according to Macdonald. They were the eighth person to speak during the panel.
“It was like being latched on to and so I wasn’t really sure how to respond. I started backing out of the room as much as I could while being sort of grabbed and also trying to keep speaking. He started screaming at me and cursing like, ‘Get the f— out of here,’ things like that.” Macdonald said, describing their experience. “I was just shocked because no one had been handled that way.”

Despite The Maroon reaching out to Isaacson repeatedly over the past week, he has not responded.

Micheal Strecker, assistant vice president for news and media relations at Tulane, in a statement regarding the altercation said, “We were notified of an incident that occurred off campus [Wednesday] involving a professor and a student at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Our practice is to review all concern reports that are brought to our attention by students, assign a case manager to students as needed and provide them with appropriate resources and support. Federal law prohibits us from commenting on the particulars of a student’s concern report and it is not our policy to comment on personnel matters.”

Tensions within the Tulane community continued to heighten as the week progressed to a protest that occurred on Saturday, March 16 during the New Orleans Book Festival, which is held on Tulane’s campus.

Tulane’s SDS, as well as New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police organized a demonstration to protest Isaacson and Tulane’s support of him, as well as Tulane’s support of Israel, according to Macdonald.

“I’ve felt immense support from the Palestinian community in New Orleans since I was attacked on Wednesday because they feel really strongly that what happened to me is not just about me being attacked as a student by a professor. It’s also about the consistent repression of protesters by Tulane for standing in solidarity with the Palestinian community,” Macdonald said.

The rally, which began as peaceful, quickly escalated when chief organizer of New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police, Toni Jones, was arrested by a Tulane police officer.

In her role as chief organizer, Jones was tasked to be a guide during the demonstration, wearing a yellow vest and ensuring that protesters were obeying the rules and laws.

“We had a police liaison. The police had talked to us beforehand. We had our own section on public property where we were allowed to demonstrate,” Jones said. “There was no animosity between the police and demonstrators, and no one was addressing the Tulane police at all.”

According to Jones, this cordial dynamic between police and demonstrators remained until Macdonald came to the rally partway through. Then, Tulane police began to “target” Macdonald, Jones said.

“They basically weren’t providing any reasoning but were just more and more aggressively targeting me specifically and trying to separate me from the other protesters,” Macdonald said.

Although the rally was taking place off Tulane campus, according to Jones, Macdonald had been approached with a citation stating that they could not be on campus, prior to an interaction where Macdonald said an officer attempted to bring them onto Tulane property so they could detain them.

While questioning Tulane police regarding the heightened attention and desire to separate Macdonald, Jones was arrested.

She spent the following nine hours detained at the Orleans Parish jail before posting bail. Her arraignment took place Monday morning where she received charges of battery on an officer and obstruction of a lawful investigation.

While Jones did not speak to the battery charge.

Strecker made the following statement: “TUPD officers and other law enforcement agencies were present at Saturday’s demonstration in order to protect protestors, university community members, and campus visitors. The arrest at Saturday’s protest was made on a public sidewalk after the subject interfered in a police investigation and assaulted a police officer. The arrested individual is not a Tulane student.”

According to Macdonald, police officers backed off immediately following Jones’ arrest and the rally continued.

“What I understand the interaction to be was pure political repression,” Jones said. “Tulane Police Department has a reputation for repressing Black student activists.”

The Maroon reached out to Tulane Police repeatedly over the past week, but they did not respond.

Jones and Macdonald have formed a defense committee, which became official the morning of Jones’ arraignment.

The committee demands first and foremost that all charges against Jones are dropped. They also call for Isaacson to be charged and removed from all his positions, as well as for Tulane to cut all their ties with Israel.

“Isaacson is not just a Tulane professor. He also sits on the board for Halliburton Lab,” Macdonald said. “He profits directly from things like the Israeli occupation of Palestine, which is what these fossil fuel companies do.”

Halliburton Lab is a sustainable energy company that was present at the New Orleans Entrepreneurship Week panel.

Macdonald further said that Tulane has been open about their financial support for Israel, and that they feel as though Tulane has been dishonest to their community by labeling themselves as an institution that encourages diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Part of the action on Saturday was to basically disrupt Bookfest because it’s very important to Tulane, and because they refuse to hear the Palestinian community about the way that they’re continuing to support the ongoing genocide,” Macdonald said. “I would really like for the Tulanian community to open their eyes to the Palestinian perspective.”

Strecker disputed the claim that Tulane is dishonest about its diversity, equity, and inclusion.

“Tulanians of all backgrounds – Muslim, Arab, Jewish, Christian and more – are supported in their cultural and religious identities. Bias, prejudice and discrimination are completely counter to our values. We hope to serve as a model in confronting the current national and global climate of intolerance and hate. Among many other efforts, we will host Anti-Islamophobia Week April 15-19, which will include expert panels on defining and stopping Islamophobia, films that explore Islamophobia and other activities focused on raising awareness of and combating Islamophobia,” Strecker said on behalf of Tulane University.

Both Jones and Macdonald call on the community to continue to show up. Macdonald especially encourages students, Loyola and Tulane alike, to join SDS.

“I want them to get involved in the fight,” Macdonald said.

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About the Contributor
Eloise Pickering
Eloise Pickering, Worldview Editor
Eloise Pickering is a current freshman and the Worldview editor. She is a mass communication major, and her favorite movie is Spotlight. When not doing homework or working at the Maroon, Eloise can often be found pondering philosophically in Audubon Park. She has often been dubbed “The Thinker.” Eloise can be reached at [email protected].

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  • B

    BernardApr 30, 2024 at 11:36 am

    The SDS?! Talk about your old-school commies!

  • S

    SeemoMar 22, 2024 at 9:43 am

    Well done,Keep fighting for human rights..God bless you!!!