University police chief placed on leave after complaints roll in over his handling of anti-Israel campus protesters

A university police chief’s actions against anti-Israel encampments found him in the crosshairs of an investigation while out on leave.

(Video: ABC15 Arizona)

At Arizona State University, late April action saw astroturf activists booted from campus with scores of arrests. Even as only a fraction of those cuffed represented actual enrollees at the school, ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson was reportedly placed on administrative leave as video emerged of his slashing tents as allegations flew over violating the religious rights of protesters.

“ASU Police Chief Michael Thompson has been placed on paid administrative leave, per university policy, pending a review of complaints filed related to his actions on April 26-27, 2024. Assistant Chief John Thompson has been named Acting Chief,” explained a statement from the school.

ABC15 Arizona featured video of the alleged actions of the chief, including the forcible removal of tents from campus property, as well as their destruction. At one point, wearing plainclothes, the man said to be the chief was confronted by someone with a cellphone seeking his identity as the material of the tents were slashed.

Instead of a verbal response, the man smacked the videographer’s phone aside.

“The ASU Office of General Counsel is directing a review of actions surrounding the establishment and removal of an encampment on the Alumni Lawn. Upon completion of the review, ASU will provide an update on its findings,” the statement continued.

Elsewhere, allegations were leveled about how police had interacted with hijab-adorned protesters as one video clip showed an officer handling the garment of a detained individual. It was suggested that the hijabs of some of those arrested had been forcibly removed.

On that claim, Azza Abuseif, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Arizona, had issued a statement that read, “The First Amendment guarantees the free practice of religion. Police cannot suspend this right. We condemn the reported actions of ASU police and call for a full investigation into this incident.”

Founder and chairwoman of ACT for America Brigitte Gabriel had previously singled out CAIR among a group of organizations connected to the Muslim Brotherhood’s effort to infiltrate the United States in order to “dominate the West and establish Islamic government on earth.”

Of course, a previous claim by a rabble-rouser at another protest had seemingly been debunked when a video was released showing an officer taking care and effort to properly reposition a hijab on a woman’s head after it had been impacted during her arrest.

ASU was also dealing with complaints from some of the arrested students, amounting to around 20 of the nearly 70 people taken into custody on the dates in question after they learned that they had also been suspended. The decision, of which a judge denied a request for preliminary injunction, meant that those who would have been graduating would not be able to participate in their final exams.

Among the demands of the Palestine-sympathizing protesters were calls for divestment from Israel and the abolishment of both campus police and the Tempe Police Department.

Kevin Haggerty

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