Ronn Torossian, an NYC Executive, Arrested After Confrontation at Syracuse Protest

Ronn Torossian, a New York City public relations executive and an associate of Mayor Eric Adams, was arrested last weekend at a pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus of Syracuse University, where he and other parents were protesting what he described as the school’s inaction toward student safety issues, including violence and antisemitism.

Mr. Torossian, who is Jewish and the parent of a Syracuse student, confronted a student protester who had a sign that said, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.” University officials described him as “especially aggressive” toward students. When Mr. Torossian refused to leave, campus security arrested him.

“Harassing behavior or conduct from anyone that creates a safety concern will not be tolerated,” the university said in a statement about the episode.

The arrest followed an off-campus incident the day before involving a pro-Palestinian protester who the school says was not a Syracuse University student. The protester said “Heil Hitler” as he made a Nazi salute at a Jewish student and then punched the student in the face, according to a police report and an email from university officials.

The assault on the Jewish student and Mr. Torossian’s arrest reflect the increasingly murky situations around the country that university administrators, students and parents are trying to navigate as lingering protests draw students and non-students alike, at locations both on and nearby campus.

Mr. Torossian, who helped organize fund-raising events for Mr. Adams’s election campaign, said he and other Jewish parents have been exasperated that the university chancellor has declined to meet with a group of concerned Jewish parents since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.

“The university has not taken any action,” Mr. Torossian said in a phone interview, “so a group of us went to raise a voice of nonviolent civil disobedience.

The off-campus incident last Saturday began when a group of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at Walnut Park in Syracuse, located near the university campus, according to accounts by two witnesses, the parents of the Jewish student, a Syracuse Police Department report and statements issued by the university.

The protesters, who included Syracuse University students and others who were not affiliated with the school, walked from Walnut Park to the encampment on campus and then returned to the park.

The park is adjacent to several fraternity houses, including a Jewish fraternity, where members had gathered on their porch and were playing the Israeli and American national anthems at top volume.

As the rally disbanded, a protester walked to the edge of the park, directly across the street from the fraternity and extended his arm in the gesture of the Nazi salute. A few Jewish students walked toward the protester to confront him, according to the police report. The protester then punched one of the Jewish students in the face. Amid the fracas, the assailant left.

Mr. Torossian said the school should be addressing the matter as an incident of antisemitism.

Jeff Stoecker, Syracuse University’s chief communications officer, said the university has no jurisdiction to get involved in incidents that occur off-campus.

(Two witnesses said that a campus safety officer had, in fact, approached the fraternity during the protest and told the students to turn down their music. The university said this was done as a courtesy, to let the students know they could be in violation of the city’s noise ordinance.)

The next day, Mr. Torossian and two other parents arrived on campus and demanded a meeting with Kent Syverud, the chancellor and president of the university. For months, Mr. Torossian said, he and other members of Syracuse Jewish Parents Council have sought meetings with Mr. Syverud.

Mr. Stoecker said the university does not recognize the group as having an “official affiliation” to Syracuse and said that school leaders have had “daily communication” with parents and families since Oct. 7, including phone calls, emails and Zoom sessions. The school’s Hillel chapter, a campus organization for Jewish students, hosted a Zoom session with about 400 parents, he said.

He also expressed frustration with Mr. Torossian. “Since his arrest, we have seen a vast amount of disinformation, including from Mr. Torossian, that is being distributed in an attempt to inflame the situation, drive personal agendas, and portray an inaccurate assessment of the demonstration on the Quad,” Mr. Stoecker said in a statement.

Mr. Torossian’s arrest at the student encampment last Sunday was first reported by The Daily Orange, the Syracuse student newspaper.

School security officials asked Mr. Torossian to leave, but he refused. He said he pointed to another man at the encampment whom he identified as a man not affiliated with the university who had been jailed years ago for manslaughter.

“Why am I being told to leave when a convicted felon is allowed to be on the premises?” Mr. Torossian said he asked campus security officers.

It is not clear why Mr. Torossian believed that the man had a criminal background.

Mr. Torossian was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. A few days later, a school spokesman said, “we informed the student protesters that non-affiliates of the university would no longer be permitted on our campus as part of their protest.”

By Thursday, politicians were weighing in. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, tweeted: “Now we’ve got convicted killers on the loose in these encampments. Jail the lawbreakers. Expel the students. Deport the illegals. Send in the Guard.”

On Friday, the man Mr. Torossian had pointed to was again seen at the encampment and was arrested on charges of trespassing, Mr. Stoecker said.

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