At a pro-Palestine protest organized primarily by two off-campus groups in Palmer Square on Saturday, Oct. 28, between 100 and 200 protesters from Princeton and surrounding areas repeated calls for a ceasefire in Gaza. A University staff member who took issue with the message of the protest assaulted a student.
The incident follows campus vigils and protests responding to the escalation of violence this month in Israel and Palestine. Although a pro-Palestine walkout last week was targeted by a threat on social media, according to a TigerAlert sent the morning of the event, this weekend marks the first reported incident of violence in relation to any of these protests.
The assault is documented in a video circulated online, including on the Instagram account for UK-based news organization @middleeasteye. The post had received over 25,000 likes as of Oct. 31.
In the video, a woman is seen responding verbally to the protesters, most of whom are chanting “ceasefire now.” When the woman sees a student recording her, she reaches to grab the student’s phone, catching some of the student’s hair in the process. The woman then takes off down the street with the phone. The Daily Princetonian has identified Emanuelle Sippy ’25 as the student in question.
Additional footage obtained by the ‘Prince’ confirms that the woman’s name tag identifies her as Irina Aranovich, who has worked at the University since summer 2020. She is currently a staff member in the Office for Space Planning & Programming and previously served as General Supervisor of Princeton’s Diagnostic Laboratory in the Department of Molecular Biology. Additional videos also depict the moments leading up to the assault, where Aranovich says, “You’re all lying,” “Israel will be free from terrorists,” and “Get the fuck out of here, liars” to the protesters. One video shows her raising her middle finger at the crowd.
Aranovich did not respond to a request for comment by the ‘Prince.’
Sippy recounted the experience to the ‘Prince,’ saying that shortly after arriving at Palmer Square as an “observer/attendee,” she observed Aranovich “saying inflammatory, hateful remarks,” which prompted her to begin recording. Sippy is the president of Princeton’s Alliance of Jewish Progressives (AJP). The AJP did not sponsor the protest in question, and Sippy was not attending in her capacity as AJP president.
“[Aranovich] pointed at the crowd, mostly Muslims, many Palestinians, and said, ‘You're Hamas’ and was conflating them with the terrorist group,” Sippy said. “I’m a white Jewish girl — it’s easier for me to intervene if need be than for a lot of other people here.” She noted that Aranovich “was clearly in distress.” Sippy told the ‘Prince’ that Aranovich took her phone after she noticed Sippy moving the camera to film her University ID, which she was wearing on a lanyard. Sippy said that she was able to recover her phone with the help of some bystanders and protest attendees.
“[Aranovich was] clearly in a lot of pain,” Sippy said, “and she [was] talking about how many people she’s lost, how many Israelis she knows who have died recently.”
“I hope she is getting the help she needs,” Sippy added.
Princeton Police arrived at the scene soon after, but Sippy chose not to provide them with a statement. “I plan to be in touch with the University about the possibility of an alternate resolution,” she said. “I’m not seeking a punitive measure. I do think that educational and restorative measures make more sense.”
University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote in an email to the ‘Prince,’ “The University takes this matter seriously and has begun a review of the situation. We have reached out to a student involved to offer support and resources.” Sippy confirmed that she was contacted by University administrators offering support on Saturday and Sunday.
After the assault, the protest continued largely without incident. The rally, advertised on a flier with the slogans “Princeton stands with Gaza” and “#CeasefireNOW,” was organized by Central New Jersey Democratic Socialists of America and Central New Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace, with Princeton’s Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) also sponsoring.
Bryce Springfield ’25, former co-chair of Princeton YDSA, attended the protest and told the ‘Prince’ that YDSA made a decision to endorse the protest in a recent meeting. He noted that he understood the protest to be focused on the call for a ceasefire and the centering of “both Palestinian and Jewish voices.”
Attendees of the protest, the majority of whom were not Princeton students, held up signs with messages like “Jews in solidarity with Palestine,” “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “cease civilian death and suffering now.” Some others waved Palestinian flags.
Springfield noted that there were a small number of people, including Princeton students, who stopped by the gathering to voice pro-Israel opinions, including some who brought Israeli flags and posters about hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas, but that besides Aranovich, he said ”there wasn't that much interaction between protesters and counterprotesters.”
In his statement to the ‘Prince,’ Hotchkiss concluded, “We renew the ‘Call for Care and Respect’ made by senior University leaders in a message to the University community last week: ‘We urge us all to continue to be civil with one another. We are not one another’s enemies. We are people bound by our proximity in time and space and by our shared commitment to Princeton’s values and its motto: to be in service to our nation and to humanity.’”
Annie Rupertus is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’
Assistant News Editor Miriam Waldvogel contributed reporting.
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Aranovich was currently employed by the Department Molecular Biology. In fact, she now works for the Office for Space Planning & Programming.