Two Scripps Student Arrestees Speak Out About Student Protest and Community Advocacy for Palestine


Frances Walton ’26 and Belén Yudess ’25
Copy Editor and Copy Editor Intern

On April 5, Pomona College, at the behest of administration, called police on student protesters who held a sit-in in Alexander Hall in response to Pomona College’s dissolution of the “mock apartheid wall.” Students across the 5Cs began camping in front of the wall on March 28 to demonstrate their solidarity with Palestine. At around 1:00 p.m. on April 5, students received word that Pomona directed Campus Safety to remove the wall to prepare for Pomona’s 4/7 day.

As Campus Safety continued confiscating parts of the wall and students’ personal belongings, 19 students entered Alexander Hall around 4:00 p.m.. Their entrance prompted Pomona College President Gabi Starr to “come out herself and start physically trying to block students from going up the stairs,” said Julianna Deibel ’24, one of the eight Scripps students arrested that day.

Deibel commented on Starr’s subsequent actions, saying, “She was grabbing people’s wrists and waists. [Even though] a couple days earlier, she had told us we were welcome to come to her office anytime because it’s our college, too. But then, when we come to her office, she tries to push us back down the stairs.”

Following this interaction with Starr, the 19 students sat in her office’s lobby area. Deibel described Starr’s subsequent decision to “order Campus [Safety] to detain a student reporter just because they were filming. […] They basically pushed them out really forcefully, kneeing and elbowing them in the face and stuff.”

Starr then asked student protesters to remove their masks for identification purposes. Starr had previously warned the group that any Pomona students found in the building would be immediately suspended, whereas students from the other 4Cs would be banned from the Pomona campus. Melia ’24, another Scripps student who was arrested and wished to have her last name omitted for future security, commented, “It’s interesting because she had said these are random masked individuals [in her statements after April 5], but if she had ever thought we weren’t part of the campus community, she wouldn’t have threatened suspension; it just proves that she knew we were students.”

As time passed, Starr continuously reminded students that if they left, they would not face disciplinary action. “They were really trying to get us to separate,” Deibel said. “And we were not going to leave each other in that situation alone. We had gone in with the same goal and vision for divestment from genocide, and I think that [Pomona] really underestimates the principles of the students at this school, especially the supermajority of their own students that voted for divestment.”

At around 5:45 p.m., about 22 police cars with approximately 24 police officers in full riot gear from the Claremont, Azusa, Pomona, and West Covina police departments arrived on the scene.

“It was really dystopian to hear the sounds of sirens coming to arrest us, and police in riot gear, and to know that admin is just laughing sitting in their locked office, not having a care in the world about their students,” Melia said.

Deibel recounted the first arrest of the group, stating, “They yanked up the [student] by the arms in a really intense way. I feel like they were doing that to scare the rest of us because after that point, they also made offers for us to leave. To use a student’s body to try to threaten other students is crazy and really disgusting.”

Rather than being “detained on the spot and then released, [the police decided to] bring us into the station, book us, and then release us,” Deibel said.

Although Melia was nervous about her arrest, she was more “centered in what [student protesters] were fighting for; we came here to make this point. There have been sit-ins as acts of civil disobedience across history.”

Pomona College charged the 19 students with California Penal Code 602(o) for “trespassing on closed lands.” As student protesters were being led to police vans to be transported to the Claremont Police Department (CPD), officers arrested an additional student attending the protest on the grounds of Penal Code 148(a)(1) for “resisting/obstructing/delaying a Peace Officer.”

“[The officers] violently arrested an Indigenous student outside who was literally just standing there,” Deibel said. “They pushed her into continuing to be in their path and then arrested her for being in their path. She’s not fighting them in any way […] they basically sweeped her up into their movement forward.”

According to Deibel, the arrested students were transported to CPD in a “van [that] was so hot, literally [felt] like 85 degrees.”

Once the 20 student protesters arrived at the jail, they were put into two cells of seven people each and one cell of four. Deibel recalled how the jailers separated two of the students from their peers.

“They had kept the student they charged with obstruction of justice separate, and they kept her in the part of the jail that they kept telling us was for ‘scary, real criminals.’ I just thought it was crazy how quickly they painted her as violent for just standing there. They also separated another [BIPOC] student who was informing us of our rights. The [police officers] would talk to the rest of us about how that student was being ‘difficult,’ which [seemed] blatantly racist.”

When officers began to remove the zip ties they used to restrain students upon arrest, Deibel explained that “they were cutting off my zip ties and they kept saying that [the zip-ties] were too tight, and they needed a second person to come help cut them off. They were sawing through [my] zip tie and sawed into my skin.”

While in holding, the jailers denied students access to a phone call or a lawyer because “the [officers] were saying that if we kept asking for a lawyer phone call, that it was going to take too much time and we weren’t going to get our fingerprints [done] before 11:00 p.m. and then we would have to spend the night in jail,” Melia said. “That was a lie because they didn’t fingerprint me until 11:30 pm, and they still released me that night.”

Deibel further commented on the officer’s actions that night, stating, “they were questioning us without a lawyer, without reading our Miranda rights, and they told us that Miranda rights were a myth that we had seen on TV, which is just not true at all.”

As students began to be booked and prepared for release, Melia noted that “the head jailer and the head of Campus [Safety] were colluding to hold the [Pomona students] in jail until they had their suspension papers. Something I saw personally because the [officers] were like, what’s your name, and what school do you go to? [Depending on your response] you got released. They kept [a Pomona student] in jail until they had their suspension paperwork ready […] the jail was holding students on behalf of Pomona College, but they had already been processed, so they should have been released.”

CPD released the first group of five students at 9:25 p.m. and a second group of five at 10:45 p.m. By 12:11 a.m., the last nine students had all been released. All the Pomona students arrested were suspended and stripped of their swipe access into the Pomona dorms and their meal swipes.

Many student organizers see this incident at Pomona as one example of a larger movement taking place at universities nationwide in solidarity with Palestine. Despite escalating militarized pushback, university students continue to protest against genocide and unite under this shared cause.

Many 5C students remained present to vocally and physically support their arrested peers throughout the day. Both Deibel and Melia recalled the impact of hearing the protesters outside. “I knew they would still be out there, but it was amazing to me how many people were there and community members and media,” said Deibel. “[I was] just immediately taken care of and given food and water. […] Some people had brought their kids.”

The arrestees also supported each other inside CPD as they were released. “Something really beautiful was for the last two hours, when people were being released slowly, every person when they left was like, ‘I’ll be out there waiting for you,’” Melia said. “I was like, man, you’ve been in jail for seven hours, you want to go home, but you’re saying you’re going to wait for me.”

Melia explained that the tenacity of the gathered crowd was meaningful “because they weren’t just showing up for the arrestees, they were showing up for the cause. They were chanting ‘instead of divesting, Pomona is arresting,’ that’s what they were chanting when I walked out [of Alexander Hall].”

The arrestees believe that Pomona College’s decision to arrest them is indicative of their greater philosophy surrounding students organizing for Palestine. “The fact that they would rather arrest their own students with riot cops than disclose and divest from genocide [is] just interesting,” said Melia. “It shows their investments in militarism more broadly in that they’re profiting off of a system of militarism while they send in militarized cops to arrest their own students.”

Pomona administration’s interactions with student organizers have challenged students’ relationships with their educational institutions. Many feel misdirected by the perceived dissonance between the colleges’ mission statements, ideals, and image and their genuine actions.

“These institutions say […] you’re going [to learn to] think globally, act locally, be a critical thinker, be courageous, be a member of your community and stand up for what you believe in; and students are actually doing that,” said Melia. “And I think that’s what this crackdown is about. The universities ultimately are showing that they care more about their financial investments than the students they claim to support as part of a community.”

Beyond students, faculty members have shown support for the arrestees and other students affected by this incident. For example, they have maintained open lines of communication with arrestees, housing, feeding, and providing them with academic and administrative support.

One aspect of faculty and student advocacy has been directed at the “Claremont Colleges Policy on Demonstration,” which many refer to as the protest policy. This policy, last approved in 2001, coupled with the “Banning Disruptive Persons From The Campuses Of The Claremont Colleges,” approved in 2011, was referenced in Pomona’s response on April 5.

Scripps professor Kimberly Drake, who has taken an active role in supporting arrestees, reported one line of particular interest from the protest policy: “Disruptive actions or demonstrations are those that restrict free movement on any of the campuses, or interfere with, or impede access to, regular activities or facilities of any of the Colleges or CUC.”

The wording of this line troubled Drake. “What is disrupting? Is it that you can hear them? […] protest is intended to be disruptive. Surely there should be a line between disruptive and violent, and also a very clear definition of violent, because I’ve seen people define violent as people linking arms in front of a building. And, I don’t think that’s violent. I can’t imagine that the protest policy could be revised without some really deep thinking about what all of these words mean.” said Drake.

More broadly, the 5C support network for student organizers is crucial for future advocacy work because, as Drake pointed out, “as long as we are somehow connected. We can come together when we all need to.”

Grounding themselves in their values and the community around them, the two Scripps seniors are now adjusting to reentering academia and graduation amidst their arrests. As Deibel and Melia prepare to end their time at Scripps, they believe that the impact of student protestors outlives any one student’s time at the institution.

“I think that they’re very wrong to assume […] that maybe this movement will graduate and maybe it’s run by seniors, or maybe it’s run by anyone, and they can get them, which is just not really part of it,” Deibel said. “I know this will be sustained beyond this year because it’s going to keep being a reality that Palestinians are under this occupation and Zionist genocide, and I think students will keep it going.”

Although the arrests were representative of growing tensions across college campuses regarding Palestinian liberation, Melia stated that the sustained and deliberate advocacy is something for Scripps and the wider 5C community to promote and appreciate instead of punish. “This is something that Scripps should be proud of,” Melia said. “Those are eight courageous Scripps students, and those are eight Scripps students that are willing to put their money where their mouth is.”

Scripps College Administration has not released statements regarding the arrests or April 5. Disciplinary meetings have begun for the arrested seniors.

Photo Courtesy of Frances Walton ’26

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