Previous interruptions of Bernie Sanders events by activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter have been, while seemingly chaotic, arguably fruitful in the gains made  through Sanders’ racial justice platform. But it doesn’t seem like activists for justice in Palestine were trying to do that during this weekend’s Bernie Sanders rally in Boston  this past Saturday. They were just carrying their sign among other protesters doing the same for their causes.

But in a statement released to media (including Colorlines) yesterday, members of Boston Students for Justice in Palestine described unusual aggression from police and venue staff that wasn’t directed at other protesters. According to the statement, they tried to videotape the interaction (seemingly precipitated by a call from someone on Sanders’ staff) before being threatened with arrest: 

On Saturday, October 3, members of Boston Students for Justice in Palestine attended the Bernie Sanders rally with a sign that read “Will Ya #FeelTheBern 4 Palestine?” We held our sign quietly and respectfully in the overflow area, and did not block any of the rally screenings or walkways. We received a warm welcome from surrounding Bernie supporters and rally participants, many of whom also carried signs.

Within minutes of arriving, we were approached by police and venue staff and told that the Bernie Sanders campaign team requested we take down our sign (see video). To our knowledge, no other individuals were asked to do the same. After we were told to take our sign down, we began filming our interaction with police and staff. We were immediately given a verbal trespass order and threatened with arrest.

The statement goes on to describe how the students eventually spoke with Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, who expressed regret at how the incident was handled. When the ousting of the students was originally reported by The Intercept, Weaver commented on how the campaign is trying to avoid similar problems in the future:

This is Bernie’s campaign manager. This was done by a low level staffer and a volunteer without authorization. The staffer has now been banned from working future events. The sign in question was appropriate and in the spirit of many of the other signs there. I have talked personally with the people excluded and expressed my regrets about this happening. When I talked with the reporter, he said the story had not gone up yet and he said this information would be included but somehow it was not. Admittedly it was later in the day so maybe he just decided to let it run in its current form without update. Other event staff are being informed about this and instructed to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Hope that clears things up.

It remains to be seen whether or not events like these will compel a foreign policy and international justice platform similar to Sanders’ racial justice one. Read the student group’s full statement below:

On Saturday, October 3, members of Boston Students for Justice in Palestine attended the Bernie Sanders rally with a sign that read “Will Ya #FeelTheBern 4 Palestine?” We held our sign quietly and respectfully in the overflow area, and did not block any of the rally screenings or walkways. We received a warm welcome from surrounding Bernie supporters and rally participants, many of whom also carried signs.

Within minutes of arriving, we were approached by police and venue staff and told that the Bernie Sanders campaign team requested we take down our sign (see video). To our knowledge, no other individuals were asked to do the same. After we were told to take our sign down, we began filming our interaction with police and staff. We were immediately given a verbal trespass order and threatened with arrest.

We understand that in American politics, the mere mention of “Palestine” often stirs controversy, but polls show that a growing and increasingly diverse segment of the American population sympathizes with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality. This is especially true of young people like us. These numbers will only grow as more Americans become aware of Israeli human rights abuses and discriminatory policies and recognize that supporting Palestinian freedom, justice and equality is a progressive value.

We have discussed the incident with Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, who expressed regret about how we were treated and acknowledged that our sign was “appropriate” and “in the spirit of many other signs there.” We are eager to engage in a dialogue about inclusivity and the elevation of under-represented voices. Sanders speaks up for those hurt by low wages, gender inequality, school tuition, corporate power, and climate change. Recently, he released a broad policy platform to address systemic racism. We want him to also speak up for those hurt by US foreign policy and military aid: we want him to speak up on Palestine. We hope that Sanders and other presidential candidates will seriously consider our government’s role in Israel’s human rights abuses as they shape their foreign policy platform.

(H/t The Intercept