Student arrested after campus protest for Palestine

Students protesting in front of Primera Casa on Feb. 8 | Danette Heredia, PantherNOW

Danette Heredia and Elise Gregg | PantherNOW Staff

Following the failure of “Ceasefire Now!” to pass in student senate, members of Students for Justice in Palestine at FIU organized a protest which ended in the arrest of a protestor.

On Feb. 8, students from SJP-FIU, and Young Democratic Socialists of America FIU, Muslim Students Association and Pakistani Students Association gathered to protest for Palestinian liberation and demand FIU divest from weapons manufacturers they believe profit from the conflict in Israel and Palestine.

“Making us heard and making people seen is very important to us,” said SJP-FIU copresident Zuhar Alchtar to PantherNOW, adding that students were also protesting against a Jan. 24 visit from the Consulate General of Israel for a screening of footage from the Oct. 7 attacks.

Original reporting by PantherNOW on social media of the protest. | Danette Heredia and Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

That day, student Joncarlo Ospina was arrested just after the protest. FIU police chief Alexander Casas told PantherNOW on Feb. 8 that it was for alleged battery against an officer. His charges were later dropped on March 28.

Students on social media claim that it never happened.

Students marched from the Graham Center lawns to Primera Casa, marching back around by the Green Library and Graham Center lawns from 12:30 to roughly 2:00.

“We will be heard and our demand will be met, and the momentum will continue,” said Oscar Alvarez, YDSA president. “That’s how we build this movement, to continue transitioning to a larger movement by sustaining these organizations that are putting in so much work to keep this movement going.”

Protesting got tense at the top of the PC stairs when students pressed up against FIUPD officers, edging toward the entry of the building that houses President Kenneth Jessell’s office.

“I think it’s beautiful to stand with so many people together and demonstrate the people power that we have,” Ospina told PantherNOW during the protest. “That people power is obvious when they have to deploy a line of fascist police to defend a bunch of people from walking into a building that they otherwise wouldn’t care if you walked into.”

“They have to stop us — why? Because we have an opinion; because we were going to go make it heard to Jessell, our president, who obviously doesn’t care.”

Though it remained nonviolent, videos on social media show an officer screaming at students at the front of the crowd.

Instagram post from Students for Justice in Palestine at FIU. Videos of the officer yelling at students begin on slide five, arrest video is on slide six.

The officer, identified as Officer Gabriel Arce, can be heard shouting “Don’t fucking grab me!”

The arrest form states that Ospina, “in an aggressive and defiant manner, grabbed the victim [Officer Arce] and attempted to pull him into the crowd that was protesting. The defendant [Ospina] pulled the victim with such force that the defendant almost pulled the victim’s watch off his wrist.”

According to FIUPD Chief Alexander Casas, the language and actions from the officer were strong, but said they were “appropriate and proportionate” to the action that incited them.

“That video doesn’t depict the entirety of the incident,” Casas told PantherNOW. “Only what happened after.”

The social media post from SJP-FIU show the video of Ospina’s arrest, where he was approached by four FIUPD officers and taken in a shipping and receiving from on the first floor of the Green Library.

Casas said they could have made the arrest on the spot, in front of PC, but opted to make it in GL instead to avoid further escalation. Casas said FIUPD would take appropriate administrative action to address the officer’s strong language.

An inmate search from Miami Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation shows that Ospina, 22, was booked into Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center at 6:36 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Mugshot of Ospina | Miami Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Inmate Search

As of 9:36 a.m. on Feb. 9, TGK informational staff confirmed that Ospina was still in custody. He was released a few days later, with charges dropped on March 28.

A post from YDSA-FIU about Ospina’s arrest claims the accusation of battery is “erroneous” and that it was FIUPD who escalated the situation.

Instagram statement from YDSA-FIU on Ospina’s arrest.

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