A 65-Year-Old Professor Describes Being Manhandled By Cops At Campus Protest

Dartmouth College history professor Annelise Orleck went viral Thursday following her arrest the previous night for taking part in a pro-Palestinian demonstration on campus. Video from New Hampshire television station WMUR showed police in riot gear pulling the 65-year-old Orleck away from the protest before one officer appears to push her to the ground.

“Are you kidding me?” a stunned demonstrator can be heard yelling.

Orleck said she was zip-tied, placed in a van with other arrestees and held in lockup in Lebanon, New Hampshire, for two and a half hours. She was charged with criminal trespass, and the terms of her bail stated she was not allowed to return to the campus where she’d been teaching for more than 30 years.

A former chair of the college’s Jewish studies program who specializes in U.S. political history and women’s history, Orleck had been teaching about the civil rights movement that afternoon. In an interview with HuffPost, she explained how the ordeal unfolded.

She initially came out to the College Green on Wednesday afternoon in support of graduate student workers who went on strike. The labor action, she said, eventually morphed into a broader protest against the college, calling for Dartmouth to divest from companies tied to Israel.

A “very small number” of students intended to set up an encampment, Orleck said. She and other supporters were asked to encircle them to create a barrier with police.

“It was peaceful,” Orleck said. “It was a very minor, mild protest. There were multi-faith expressions of solidarity, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian. It was a really nice, peaceful event.”

She and others broke for dinner around 7:30 p.m., but they soon got a message that more cops had shown up. Concerned, Orleck and her group — “older women faculty,” she described them — headed back.

“The Green was transformed,” Orleck said. “There was an unbelievable presence of militarized police. Like nothing I’d seen in more than 30 years of teaching here. And so the students on campus were upset by that, and so the numbers on the Green began to grow.”

“I fault the institution for bringing in riot police. [The protest] was completely, 100% peaceful.”

– Annelise Orleck

She said that presence included campus security, local police from Hanover and Lebanon and state police. She credited the campus security officers for keeping order but said they eventually moved out.

Orleck said police officers in riot gear were “swooping in” and arresting those who were part of the encampment. She and her faculty friends tried to stand between the two sides, thinking the police wouldn’t get physical with older women.

“Well, that was wrong,” Orleck said.

She started taking pictures with her phone and telling the police to leave the demonstrators alone. She says she was thrown to the ground. A video from Dartmouth student journalist David Adkins posted on X shows Orleck getting up and confronting police. Orleck says one took her phone and she was demanding it back.

The video from WMUR journalist Ross Ketschke shows a cop in riot gear yanking Orleck away from the protest and handing her off to a pair of cops in trooper-style hats. Orleck tumbles to the ground — she says she didn’t fall but was pushed. Then they drag her onto her stomach.

“They slammed me down … They were dragging me. My hands still hurt … They kneeled on my back,” Orleck said.

Dartmouth history professor Annelise Orleck said the protests on campus were peaceful until police in riot gear started removing people.
Dartmouth history professor Annelise Orleck said the protests on campus were peaceful until police in riot gear started removing people.

Courtesy Annelise Orleck

The van of arrestees she was placed in included a pair of student journalists who’d been wearing their credentials, Orleck recalled. She said one student was crying. Orleck decided to lead them in singing civil rights songs. But since the day had begun with labor protests, they started with “Solidarity Forever.”

“And then we went to ‘This Little Light of Mine’ and ‘We Shall Not Be Moved,’” Orleck said. “It made the students and me feel a little better.”

According to the Hanover Police Department, protesters had been ordered to disperse after Dartmouth made it clear no tents or encampments would be allowed. Many who refused were arrested. Hanover Police Chief Charlie Dennis confirmed that Orleck was arrested and charged with criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor. He said a total of 89 arrests were made. He declined to comment on Orleck’s account.

Orleck said the Vermont Workers’ Center, a labor group, posted the $40 bail for her and others who were arrested. Orleck had no cash on her.

A Dartmouth spokesperson said the school was “taking every reasonable step to ensure [Orleck] can continue teaching classes.”

“We are also clarifying the conditions imposed by the bail commissioner, noting that Dartmouth had no intention of seeking Prof. Orleck’s exclusion from campus, and we will promptly request that any errors be corrected,” the spokesperson said.

“This generation is actually quite a remarkable generation. They’re politically committed and savvy and moral.”

– Annelise Orleck

Orleck said she received a call Thursday from Dartmouth President Sian Leah Beilock asking how she was doing. Orleck told her she had bruises from the arrest. She said they disagreed on the need for such a strong police presence.

“I fault the institution for bringing in riot police,” Orleck said. “[The protest] was completely, 100% peaceful. I know the president doesn’t agree with me because she said that to me yesterday, but I was there. And the only way to think of them as not peaceful is if you think that using the words ‘Free Palestine’ means you’re dangerous.”

Orleck also said she was proud of how the students behaved.

“This generation is actually quite a remarkable generation. They’re politically committed and savvy and moral,” she said. “I really want to see, you know, the discussion of them and the treatment of them be kinder and more attentive. I think we just need to be doing our job, educating them and not, you know, attacking them violently. This is a moment where we need to go back to thinking that protest is a part of campus life.”

Orleck said she has a class to teach on Friday. Even though Dartmouth has told her they never intended to ban her, an attorney told her she would be violating her bail terms by stepping foot on campus. She believes she’ll need either a new bail bond or to have the charges dropped.

For now, she plans to teach via Zoom.

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