Columbia University’s Pro-Palestine Protests Prompt Police Response in Riot Gear

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of New York Police Department officers, some carrying batons and wearing riot gear, entered Columbia University’s campus. This happened while student protesters were occupying a campus building to protest the Israel-Hamas war.

The students had barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall earlier that day, after more than a week of protesting outside on the campus grounds.

The police entered the building through a second-floor window around 9:30 p.m., after Columbia University told students to stay indoors and the NYPD demanded they stay in their dorms.

Columbia University said they called the NYPD to “restore safety and order” to the campus after the protests escalated.

The tensions at Columbia had been building for days, with the campus being the first of many across the country to protest the Biden administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war. The students demanded a cease-fire, an end to military aid to Israel, and for the university to divest from Israeli interests.

A spokesperson for Columbia University said they believed the protesters in Hamilton Hall were not students at the university. The campus had been closed to people without school IDs for almost two weeks.

Columbia University's Pro-Palestine Protests Prompt Police Response in Riot Gear
Police enters Columbia University (Credits: Sky News)

During a press conference earlier that day, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said the protests had been “co-opted” and urged the demonstrators to stop before things got worse.

The NYPD deputy commissioner said the protesters inside Hamilton Hall could face charges of burglary, criminal mischief, and trespassing, while those outside could face trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

Dozens of protesters were arrested that evening, with videos showing them being led away in zip ties. The NYPD cleared Hamilton Hall of protesters just before 11 p.m.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized the mayor and Columbia University for their response and the police action.

The Columbia chapter of the American Association of University Professors also criticized the police presence, saying it put everyone on campus at risk.

WKCR radio at Columbia reported that the NYPD would stay on campus until May 17, according to an email sent to students. This police response is planned to continue beyond the university’s graduation next month.

Columbia University's Pro-Palestine Protests Prompt Police Response in Riot Gear
Police enters Columbia University (Credits: Irish Examiner)

The police action against the protesters happened exactly 58 years after Columbia called in the NYPD to break up a similar protest in Hamilton Hall against the Vietnam War. The university has since said that calling the police was a mistake.

Faculty at Barnard College voted no confidence in the college president on the same day, citing the school’s response to the protests.

Columbia University has been in the spotlight for the protests, with visits from politicians and calls for the university president to resign if the protests continue.

Over a thousand students nationwide have been arrested at similar protests, some of which turned violent.

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