Eleven students and activists were arrested early Wednesday morning after sitting in the road in front of the Beacon Street home of Northeastern University president Joseph E. Aoun to protest the university’s multimillion-dollar research contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The demonstrators were released from detention around 6 a.m. Wednesday and went into court for hearings, said Patricia Murphy, 23, an organizer and spokeswoman with Cosecha Boston, the group that organized the rally.
“We are demanding Northeastern to be on the right side of history,” Murphy said.
The protesters were peaceful and compliant with arrest and booking, a Boston police spokesman said.
Northeastern spokeswoman Renata Nyul said in a statement, “Peaceful protests are the hallmark of a great university. We celebrate the vigorous exchange of competing ideas, which is the basis of higher learning.”
The university has received $2.7 million from ICE for a faculty member to study data on technology exports. The contract is technically unrelated to immigration issues. Researchers said they analyze exports that could be either harmless or used as weapons.
“If you’re working with the current agents of the Gestapo, it doesn’t matter how you’re working with them,” said Carlos Gabriel, a Cosecha organizer and immigrant from the Dominican Republic who was arrested. “You’re still working with an agency that unfairly targets immigrants.”
Nyul said the university was committed to academic freedom and that extended to research funding. “Efforts to restrict which federal agencies a faculty member can approach for research funding are antithetical to academic freedom,” she said.
The demonstrators sat in a circle in the street, facing outward. They held a large sign made with red paint on white fabric that read: “CANCEL YOUR CONTRACT WITH I.C.E.” and had the Northeastern “N” emblazoned below.
“It’s really hard to be proud of our university right now,” said Kaitlyn Mangelinkx, 18, a rising Northeastern second-year studying biology and political science who was also arrested. “Students are really passionate about the issue.”
Mangelinkx was the only Northeastern student arrested, although many other students came to the march Tuesday night, she said.
The 11 defendants were charged with disturbing the peace. Before they were arraigned, prosecutors agreed to dismiss the charges if they did 12 hours of community service within 90 days, Suffolk district attorney’s spokesman Jake Wark said.
The demonstrators also protested the involvement of the school’s co-op program with ICE. Students say Northeastern’s internal applications portal lists an internship at ICE and gives students tools to apply, raising concerns among undergraduates and law students alike .
“By continuing this relationship [with ICE], [Northeastern] is aligning itself with a priority of profits and notoriety over the best interests and outspoken demands of the community it affects,” the protesters said in a statement.
The university did not say whether ICE was one of the more than 3,000 organizations listed for co-ops to apply for jobs. Nyul said some organizations “elicit strong political views,” but “students’ academic and professional goals should not be curtailed by social or political pressure.”