A Boston Municipal Court judge dismissed a request for charges Monday against a 23-year-old involved in pro-Palestine protests at Northeastern University, the first of more than 200 protesters from local colleges facing court hearings over the next two weeks.

Northeastern police had sought criminal trespassing charges against Kyler Shinkle-Stolar, who was on leave from college at the time of his arrest. On Monday, First Justice David Breen of the Boston Municipal Court's Roxbury District dismissed that request and instead ordered Shinkle-Stolar to complete 20 hours of community service. He was issued a stay-away order that allows him to enter the campus only on “official business,” including classes.

Northeastern spokesperson Ed Gavaghan said Shinkle-Stolar is not considered an active Northeastern student because he was not enrolled at the time of his arrest.

Shinkle-Stolar's attorney, Carl Williams of the National Lawyers Guild, told GBH News that his client has five credits remaining to graduate, and that he would easily comply with the judge's order.

“He has a life dedicated to community service. Everything he does, he's an organizer, he's a community activist. He cares about his community. So him doing 20 hours of community service is him living his life,” Williams said. “We understand the judge's order and we will comply with that, and we think everyone should be involved in their community.”

Approximately 210 protesters were arrested during sweeps of pro-Palestine encampments in the past week, including 108 people arrested at Emerson College on Thursday and some 102 arrested on Saturday during a clearing of Northeastern’s encampment.

Shinkle-Stolar said he was arrested two days before the larger encampment clearing. He says he was singled out by three officers who followed him into an academic building where he had walked to use the restroom, and arrested him largely out of view on the side of the building.

“I was taken to Nashua Street jail where they did strip search me and held me there for about 5 to 6 hours,” Shinkle-Stolar told GBH News Monday. “Although that was a terrible experience for me, it is nothing compared to what Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and even Israel proper are experiencing on a daily basis under occupation, apartheid and the ruthless genocidal assault that Israel has laid on all of them.”

In an email to the Northeastern community on Monday, Provost David Madigan and Chancellor Ken Henderson said, “the encampment was an unauthorized occupation of university space” and that school officials were concerned about safety.

“Protesters not affiliated with Northeastern were trespassing on private property. Student protesters were in violation of longstanding university policy on demonstrations. ... The steadily increasing presence of protesters not affiliated with the university led to a clear escalation in tensions,” the email said.

Outside the courthouse in Roxbury, a small group of students emphasized the mission of their protest and criticized the university's official statements.

Graduating senior August Escandon said that the encampment was peaceful until university officials called in Massachusetts State Police officers to clear tents and conduct arrests.

“The outside agitators were the state police that Northeastern brought in, they even mentioned them as external partners in the 'flawless execution' of zip-tying and brutally arresting over 100 students,” Escandon said. “It's very despicable that they would charge us with, honestly, what they were literally doing.”

Fourth-year student Alex Madaras questioned the official statement that part of the problem was outside influence.

“Northeastern prides itself on being a global community, on being a community that's part of the city that you can step off campus right onto the street and be in the heart of Boston,” they said. “To say that there is a distinction in that people are not allowed to to come support us when it's their interests at heart is absolutely disgusting. There is there is no reason to use those folks as a weapon to shut down our collective power. It's not just a student movement, it's a people movement.”

Students said they were focusing their message on pushing universities in Boston — and across the country — to divest funds from companies that support or work with Israeli military forces.

Madaras cited protests in the 1980s that successfully pushed Northeastern to divest from companies invested in the South African Apartheid government.

“We know now, looking back, that universities that refused and dragged their feet were on the wrong side of history,” he said. ”We have absolutely no doubt that Northeastern will divest and that we will end the slaughter through the power of our collective action, because there is no other choice. We have no option except to protect our brothers and sisters on the ground in Gaza, in Palestine, because they must live. Palestine will be free.”

Around 30 protesters are expected to appear in Boston Municipal Court Tuesday morning, as hearings continue through May 7.

Updated: May 02, 2024
This story has been updated to add context surrounding Kyler Shinkle-Stolar's status at Northeastern University.