AMHERST, MASS. (WHDH) - A Jewish student is speaking out after he was beaten up on the campus of UMass Amherst late last week.
Dylan Jacobs said the incident happened on Friday after a Jewish organization, Hillel, held an event on campus aimed at raising awareness about the hundreds of people kidnapped from Israel during Hamas’ attack on the country last month.
Speaking with 7NEWS, Jacobs said “The whole thing happened so quickly.”
“I knew the guy was there but I didn’t think he would actually go and physically attack someone,” Jacobs said.
Hillel set up large tables with the faces of kidnapped people.
Carl Goldberg, a junior at UMass Amherst, said organizers planned their event “very last minute so that there couldn’t be anything negative being brought out.”
“We didn’t want any type of confrontation or anything like that,” Goldberg said.
As students were leaving though, police said, 21-year-old Efe Ercelik allegedly attacked, also taking an Israeli flag from the victim in this incident.
“He was there waving a Palestine flag and we had small Israeli flags they gave out at this event, so I waved that back,” Jacobs said. “The guy just charged out of the building screaming and then he punched me in the head a few times, ended up taking the flag from me and then kicked me in the stomach and shoved me back.”
“He just completely stabbed the flag until it was just entirely shredded and unrecognizable,” Jacobs continued.
Ercelik is now facing several charges. UMass officials said he is not allowed back on campus.
“What this student is accused of is reprehensible, illegal and unacceptable,” officials wrote in a statement.
“Let us be clear, these were actions of an individual who did not speak for nor act on behalf of a group or anyone other than themselves,” officials continued. “Peaceful advocacy and protest must and will be protected on our campus.”
Ercelik was in court Monday.
Back on the UMass Amherst campus, students shared their reactions to the situation.
“Seeing what’s going around in the world and on college campuses across the country, it’s been extremely difficult,” Jacobs said. “Then, to have this happen, it’s really hard to feel safe going to classes or going to the library to study.”
“I know there are incidents happening, not just on our campus, but many different universities,” said UMass Amherst Senior Simona Zilberberg. “It’s a scary time.”
Hillel UMass Amherst has told students to walk in groups and not attend counter protests.
Asked if she feels safe on campus, Zilberberg responded.
“I like to think so, but just on Friday, I was with my entire community, there was police presence there at the event and to know that happened so close to me was a scary feeling,” she said.
Ercelik’s charges include vandalism and assault and battery.
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