21 arrested at UMass protest last week arraigned on Monday; more to come in coming days

Staff Report

Published: 05-13-2024 6:07 PM

BELCHERTOWN — The first group of 130 people arrested last week following pro-Palestinian protests on the University of Massachusetts campus were arraigned Monday in Eastern Hampshire District Court.

Twenty-one people pleaded not guilty before District Court Judge Bruce S. Melikian to charges including trespassing, failing to disperse from a riot, and resisting arrest, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office. They were released on their own recognizance and told to return to court in July.

Among those arrested were UMass students, UMass faculty members and people from the community at large. UMass said police made 132 arrests, of whom approximately 70 were students and six were faculty.

Arraignments are planned for those arrested in groups of about 20 people each day until all have been processed, which could mean arraignments run into next week.

Prosecutors are now working to obtain and review police reports and body camera footage which must be completed before any decisions are made about how to proceed, the district attorney’s office said.

“We understand there is significant community interest in these cases, particularly as there are similar protests taking place around the country. The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office will seek just resolutions for each case individually, with prosecutors taking into account the specific facts around each arrest,” District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement.

“We respect the right of people to speak out and engage in political protests as is fundamental to our democracy. At the same time, we understand the university may take steps to safeguard everyone on the campus.”

Assistant District Attorney Michael Russo handled Monday’s arraignments, while defense attorneys Rachel Weber and Luke Ryan represented the defendants.

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Most of the cases were continued to July 8 for pretrial conferences. Going forward, cases will be continued to July 9, 10 and beyond, as needed.