UMass student accused of punching Jewish student, spitting on Israeli flag.
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A University of Massachusetts Amherst student was arrested after allegedly punching a Jewish student and spitting on an Israeli flag at the end of a vigil Friday evening, school officials said.
The unidentified student is accused of assaulting his classmate during an event where empty seats were set up at a Shabbat table to represent the more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas fighters during their terror attack of October 7 against Israel.
The suspect first approached the participants and gave them the finger before walking away, according to UMass Hillel, who organized the solemn meeting.
But the same student returned shortly after and allegedly punched the Jewish student who was holding an Israeli flag before snatching it from the victim’s hands, the organization said. The attacker then allegedly spat on the flag.
University staff witnessed the disturbing incident, UMass Hillel said.
UMass police investigated the “deeply disturbing incident” and made an arrest that evening, school officials said in a message to students. The victim was not injured, the school also said.
The offending student has been released on bail but is prohibited from returning to campus, said Acting Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed and Deputy Vice Chancellor and Police Chief Tyrone Parham.
“What this student is accused of is reprehensible, illegal and unacceptable,” the two school leaders said in a joint statement. “Let me be clear, these were the actions of an individual who did not speak or act on behalf of any group or anyone himself.”
UMass Hillel said there was no ongoing security threat, but encouraged students to march in groups at night and not interact with counterprotesters.
College campuses have seen increasing cases of anti-Semitism since Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,400 Israelis in a shocking attack, prompting the Israel Defense Forces to bomb Gaza.
“We know this incident is disturbing to many of us, especially at a time when tensions, emotions and concerns are heightened on our campus,” UMass Hillel said in its statement. “But we must not let the most extreme voices and actions create unwarranted fear or dominate campus climate. »
Perdomo-Ahmed and Parham also said in their statement: “Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or any form of bigotry have no place in our community, and we are committed to ensuring that our community’s engagement with opposing points of view are maintained in a respectful manner. »