Anti-Israel protesters assaulted multiple people at Tulane University in New Orleans on Oct. 26, the most serious being after Jewish students at a rally responded to those aboard a truck who attempted to set an Israeli flag on fire.
Dylan Mann, a Jewish freshman studying homeland security at Tulane, told JNS that he saw Jewish students waving Israeli flags and handing out fliers about kidnapped hostages. Across the street, others were rallying against Israel and its actions in the Gaza Strip after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7. Soon, the two groups were responding to one another.
The protesters “were screaming hateful things like ‘From the river to the sea’ and calling us ‘genocide supporters,’” Mann told JNS. “I knew at that point, I wasn’t going to leave. I was gonna stay.”
The pro-Israel activists began calling those across the street “terrorists,” and “it got very hateful very quickly,” he said.
Someone in a red pickup truck with a Palestinian flag began to burn an Israeli flag, and a pro-Israel student sought to grab it. One of the people in the truck started hitting him with a flag pole, and Mann intervened to try to protect the student.
“The driver starts punching me, and there were a couple of people who joined them,” Mann told JNS. “That’s where someone blindsides me with the megaphone and hits me in the face. And they instantly broke my nose with that.”
“Thank God, there were two girls on the Jewish side who were able to pull me out; they risked their safety for that. They are true heroes for that.”
Mann suffered a broken nose after being struck in the face with a megaphone and spent several hours in the hospital, where a CT scan revealed no brain damage, he told JNS.
“It was just unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced before,” Mann told JNS. “I was mostly just in shock. You see the monsters and what they do on videos, and you hear on the news, but when you’re really experiencing it, it’s a new level of shock.”
‘A bunch of rioters’
Bali Levine, a junior double-majoring in public health and Jewish studies, was one of the students who pulled Mann away from his attackers.
“I wasn’t gonna let him be beaten by a mob, by a bunch of rioters,” Levine told JNS.
Levine told JNS that the truck driver then “got out of the car, unbuckled his belt, and began to whack and whip the belt on students.”
The event Levine was helping to plan was meant to be a positive gathering with a table outside the university’s student life center, complete with baked goods like brownies.
“We had no political statements going on—nothing of the sort,” Sasson told JNS. There were Hebrew songs, including the Israeli national anthem “Hativkah.” “It was very much a peaceful protest on our side.”
But when she saw other Jewish students standing against the anti-Israel demonstrators, “I wasn’t going to let them stand there alone,” she said. “I felt it was important for me to go. I’m glad I went. I witnessed the hate firsthand.”
Even after the assaults appeared to have ended, the fear did not abate, Levine told JNS.
“Three minutes later, people started saying that ‘the truck’s gonna come back around. The truck’s gonna come back around.’ I don’t want to speak for everybody. I personally did not feel protected by the police.”
‘The most violent act I’ve seen’
According to Pnina Sasson, a freshman who is considering a journalism major, two others were in the truck with the driver. Those two, who appeared to be of middle or high school age, were the ones lighting the Israeli flag on fire and displaying the Palestinian flag. (She added that many of the protesters appeared to be middle-aged.)
When the young person, whose face was obscured by a scarf, began setting the Israeli flag on fire, Sasson and others knew “the line had been broken and had been crossed.”
She told JNS that the whole incident hit very close to home: “It’s very frightening, especially seeing people that were protesting against us who live in my dorm and are in my classes.”
“I just cannot get that image out of my head—the moment that he was hit in the head with that megaphone. It was just so violent,” Sasson said. “This is the most violent act I’ve ever seen in my life, period. Antisemitism aside.”
“Having it happen to my friend was just absolutely traumatizing,” she added.
On Oct. 27, a day after the incident, Tulane’s president Michael Fitts and two other senior administrators said there were “no active threats,” and that the campus was “secure.” They went on to state that the Tulane University Police Department is increasing its numbers and visibility of officers on the ground, among other precautions.
“The several individuals who have been arrested in the last few days have been issued a restricted presence by TUPD, which prevents them from entering and engaging on any of Tulane’s campuses,” the three officials added. “We must unite in our efforts to protect one another and to stand against all forms of violence and hate including antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism.”