CSU courtyard regular arrested for violating protection order
Alec Popivker, a regular visitor to Cleveland State University's courtyard, was arrested by the university’s police department on Jan. 25 for violating a protection order connected to a CSU student.
Popivker is no stranger to CSU’s courtyard. He has a history of coming to campus and haranguing the school's Muslim and Palestinian communities. The Cauldron, CSU’s student-run newspaper, began documenting Popivker's behavior in November 2022 after his behavior had made students uncomfortable.
The Cauldron reported on Nov. 18 that Popivker brought onto campus a Keffiyeh -- a traditional Arab and Palestinian scarf worn by men -- with a swastika drawn on it. He used the headscarf, connected to Palestinian culture and history, in an attempt to link Palestinians with Nazis, saying "Palestinians are Nazis" and "Palestinians are like the KKK."
On that day, Popivker also followed two Muslim women across the courtyard, pestering them with questions regarding their thoughts on Palestine.
Popivker's behavior was protected under the university’s free speech policy which states that "it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable or even deeply offensive" and its Expressive Activity Policy which permits those outside of the university to speak in certain areas around campus like outdoor areas and the Student Center Plaza which are deemed public property "to promote the free exchange of ideas on university property."
However, in December 2022, Popivker was temporarily banned from campus due to a protective order pertaining to a student.
Time away from campus did not stop Popivker from reaching out to students. He took to social media, in at least one case targeting a member of the Palestinian community at CSU.
An organization on campus had posted introductions of their officers to Instagram. One officer included a Palestinian flag in their biography in honor of their heritage.
Popivker commented, “What’s with the Arab Nazi flag?” deleting the comment shortly after. He then requested to follow the individual on their private social media account until they blocked him.
“When I saw the comment in my notification center I was shocked as to how he even found our organization in the first place,” the student told The Stater. “It’s almost as though he deliberately looks for Palestinian individuals just to target them. It made me feel so uncomfortable. The fact that he deleted the comment right away is actually laughable. He’ll make wicked comments, but not when his digital footprint is at risk.”
Popivker returned to campus on Jan. 18 and then again on Jan. 25 when the CSUPD arrested him for violating a student’s temporary protection order against him, prompting CSU to initiate a persona non grata hearing process against Popivker.
A hearing was scheduled for Feb. 1. CSU's associate vice president of marketing and communications, David Kielmeyer, told Cleveland Jewish News that if the persona non grata is granted, CSUPD will be able to remove Popivker from campus.
Disappearance of student organization banner
Separately, Popivker on Jan. 25 said on social media that he was behind the disappearance of the Palestinian Human Rights student organization banner from the CSU Student Center, which went missing on Jan. 11.
“As an act of civil disobedience, I have removed the terrorist banner that erases the Jewish state that has displayed at the Cleveland State University Center,” Popivker said in an Instagram post. “Pan Arab Nazi flag is designated as a terrorist symbol by Israel. Is the CSU really in solidarity with this?”
A misdemeanor charge was filed against Popivker in the Cleveland Municipal Court on Jan. 19 relating to the alleged theft of the flag.
Popivker attended court for the alleged theft on Feb. 2 and entered a not guilty plea. Pre-trial proceedings begin on Feb. 21 with Judicial Officer Andrea Nelson-Moore.
This story was updated Jan. 31 with the following corrections:
1) Paragraph 7 has been corrected to note that Popivker was temporarily banned from campus due to a protection order, not due to a pending persona non grata case.
2) Paragraph 13 has been amended to note that Popivker posted to Instagram on Jan. 25, not Jan. 18 as previously reported, his claim that he was behind the disappearance of the Palestinian Human Rights student organization banner from the CSU Student Center.
This story was updated Feb. 2 to include new information on Popivker's court hearing.