Yale Divinity Student Arrested For Protesting At Israeli Defense Forces Lunch In Westport [Hartford Courant]

May 14, 2015

Article as it appeared in the New Haven Register

Two New Haven men, including a student at Yale Divinity School, were arrested Tuesday as they protested at a Westport synagogue that was hosting members of the Israeli Defense Force.

Police charged Gregory Williams and Daniel Fischer with first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree breach of peace for their protest at a luncheon at Temple Israel in Westport.

According to Westport police, a call came in at about 1 p.m. Tuesday, complaining of “unwanted people protesting” at the synagogue.

The temple was holding a luncheon and hosting a talk with members of the Israeli Defense Force.

Some witnesses apparently believed that the one of the men approaching the building had a gun, but police said no gun was located during the incident.

“A witness had observed one of the men approaching with a shirt over his arm and hand which led some witnesses to believe he was carrying a gun,” police said in a statement.

The police report says that two suspects entered the building and were confronted by staff and told to leave. But they refused to leave and walked past staff and attempted to enter the meeting room.

“Temple Israel staff had to physically prevent them from entering the meeting room,” the police report said. “As the two were detained outside the meeting room it was reported that they were shouting various statements regarding the [Israeli Defense Force].”

The actions of the protesters created enough concern that several people in attendance fled the premises, fearing for their safety.

A lockdown was also put in place at nearby Coleytown Middle School and Coleytown Elementary School, as well as at the pre-school at the Unitarian church and the Temple Israel Nursery.

On Wednesday, Sen. Toni Boucher R-Wilton issued a statement, calling on Yale “to condemn and take the strongest possible action regarding this student. The Divinity program should be a model for peace, tolerance and understanding of all religions in the often hostile world we live in.”

“It is one thing to stand on public property and peacefully protest regarding something you believe in no matter how objectionable some find it,” Boucher said in a statement. “It is another matter however, to barge into a luncheon filled with women and children shouting in a menacing way.”

A spokesman for Yale said the university didn’t have any information about the incident yet, except what Boucher had said.

Williams and Fischer were issued a $1,500 bond and a court dates of May 21 in Norwalk Superior Court.