U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student journalist arrested while covering protest at Dartmouth College

Incident Details

Date of Incident
May 1, 2024

Arrest/Criminal Charge

Arresting Authority
Lebanon Police Department
Detention Date
Unnecessary use of force?
Valley News/James M. Patterson

Alesandra Gonzales, a journalist with The Dartmouth student newspaper, center, was arrested while covering a pro-Palestinian protest on the Dartmouth College campus in Hanover, New Hampshire, on May 1, 2024.

— Valley News/James M. Patterson
May 7, 2024 - Update

Trespassing charge dropped against Dartmouth student reporter

New Hampshire prosecutors dropped the trespassing charge against student journalist Alesandra Gonzales on May 7, 2024, and lifted the bail conditions forbidding her from entering certain areas of the Dartmouth College campus, the school’s student newspaper reported.

Gonzales, a reporter and photographer for The Dartmouth, and Charlotte Hampton, a managing editor and reporter at the paper, were arrested while reporting on a pro-Palestinian encampment at the college on May 1.

Both were wearing press credentials issued by the newspaper, and Gonzales was holding her professional camera while Hampton had her reporter’s notebook. Both were charged with criminal trespassing and released hours later on bail conditions barring them from multiple locations on campus.

Fifteen journalists’ rights organizations, including Freedom of the Press Foundation, which runs the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, sent a letter May 7 to Dartmouth president Sian Leah Beilock and a local prosecutor urging them to dismiss the charges against Gonzales and Hampton.

Later that day, The Dartmouth published an open letter from Beilock in which she wrote that the two journalists “should not have been arrested for doing their jobs.”

“We are working with local authorities to ensure this error is corrected,” she wrote.

The Dartmouth then reported that the state had dropped the charges that day, stating in court documents that it “does not believe it can prove the charges against [Hampton and Gonzalez] beyond a reasonable doubt” and requesting that the journalists’ bail conditions be lifted.

“I’m glad to be able to get back to being the press and not having to worry about not being able to go on certain areas of campus,” Gonzales told The Dartmouth.

“What happened last week was really a clear threat to the free press,” Hampton told the paper. “I’m more fired up than ever about being a journalist.”

May 1, 2024

Student journalist Alesandra Gonzales and a colleague at their college newspaper were arrested while reporting on a pro-Palestinian encampment at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, on May 1, 2024.

The student newspaper, The Dartmouth, reported that a group of students planned to erect an encampment at 6:30 p.m. that day in solidarity with protests at universities across the country calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza war.

Gonzales, a reporter and photographer for The Dartmouth, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she was on assignment to photograph the demonstration as protesters erected tents, and student and community members formed a barrier around them.

The Dartmouth reported that officers with multiple departments, including the New Hampshire State Police and Hanover Police Department, arrived on campus shortly after 8 p.m. They gave protesters a final warning to leave the area under threat of arrest, noting that physical force may be used, then began making arrests approximately 30 minutes later.

“At least in my perspective, we were relatively clearly separated from the protesters themselves,” Gonzales said. “We were with a group of other journalists, both for The Dartmouth and other local organizations, as well as being with a representative from the college’s Office of Communications.”

Gonzales said she had just finished filming the aggressive arrest of a history professor when two officers grabbed her.

“I told them many times while I was being arrested that I was press, and even my arresting officer took a picture of my press credential,” Gonzales said. “So I think they were very aware that I was press.”

Her colleague, managing editor and reporter Charlotte Hampton, was standing next to her. “I called out to her,” Gonzales said, “both as another journalist and as a mentor, because I wasn’t sure entirely of what was going on.”

It wasn’t until they were loaded into the same van that Gonzales realized that Hampton had been arrested as well. According to The Dartmouth, they were detained at around 9:45 p.m. Gonzales told the Tracker that both were wearing press credentials issued by the newspaper, and that she was holding her professional camera while Hampton had her reporter’s notebook.

They were transported to the Lebanon Police Department seven miles away, Gonzales said, where they were booked on charges of criminal trespassing. The journalists were released on bail at 11:30 p.m., The Dartmouth reported.

Gonzales told the Tracker that in addition to their $40 bonds, both student journalists are barred from multiple locations on campus as a condition of their bail.

“Because of that, we cannot walk across or on the green. We cannot enter the administrative building or Parkhurst Hall, which is where the president’s office is located as well as various other departments,” Gonzales said.

Both student journalists have initial appearance hearings scheduled for Aug. 5.

In an editorial published by The Dartmouth the following day, the newspaper condemned the arrests and said the college should be embarrassed.

“We are glad Hampton and Gonzales are back in the newsroom safely, but having to retrieve them from the station at all was a slap in the face,” the editorial board wrote. “If Dartmouth has any commitment to the freedom of the press, it must do everything in its power to get the relevant authorities to drop the charges against our reporters.”

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].