A prominent Muslim advocacy group has deemed Bates College and Lewiston police’s labeling of a pro-Palestinian rights student group’s chalk drawings as anti-Semitic hate crimes “unacceptable.”
Last month, the Bates Leftist Coalition had posted photos of pro-Palestinian chalk drawings to its Instagram account, prompting an investigation by the Lewiston police after Bates administrators contacted them, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.
“As an institution of learning, we are working hard with students to create opportunities to promote deeper understanding across divides and provide space for discourse focused on healing as a campus community,” Bates administrators said.
Lewiston police later referred their findings to the Maine attorney general’s office as a potential hate crime, which did not prosecute the incident.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the U.S.’s largest Muslim advocacy and civil rights group, said Bates administration and Lewiston police’s reactions to the chalk drawings were “unacceptable.”
“We welcome the decision of the Maine Attorney General’s office not to pursue a hate crime investigation of this incident, and we call on leaders and law enforcement across the country to uphold the First Amendment rights of everyone to voice their support for the Palestinian people,” CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper said.
In May, tensions between Israeli and Palestinian authorities escalated after Palestinian militant group Hamas launched several missiles when the Israeli Defense Forces refused to vacate the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a holy site in Islam.
In response, the Israeli Defense Forces bombed the Gaza Strip, killing over 200 people and prompting global protests. Bates students held several protests and members of the Bates Leftist Coalition posted images of the pro-Palestinian chalk drawings, showing messages such as “Free Palestine” and “Israel is killing innocent people.”