NYPD Arrests Over 100 Pro-Gaza Protesters at Columbia University

May 1, 2024
NYPD officers, including Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry, removed a Palestinian flag displayed on the Columbia University campus and replaced it with an American flag after police began arresting pro-Palestinian protesters who had taken over the university's main administration building.

By Chris Sommerfeldt and Thomas Tracy

Source New York Daily News

NEW YORK — Over 100 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested when an army of NYPD cops stormed Columbia University to end the seizure of a school building where all the doors had been barricaded with bicycle locks, officials said Wednesday.

“This is what we encountered on every door inside Hamilton Hall,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard said in a Wednesday morning appearance on MSNBC with Mayor Adams, holding up one of the heavy chain-link locks. “This is not what students bring to school, OK?”

At the request of Columbia University administrators, hundreds of cops in riot gear entered the campus about 9 p.m. Tuesday, climbing in through windows to access Hamilton Hall, which had been occupied by protesters less than 24 hours earlier as part of an encampment protest that started last month.

At least 292 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested citywide overnight, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said Wednesday. Some 119 of them were busted at Columbia University, about 50 of those inside Hamilton Hall, while another 173 were arrested at the City College campus in Harlem, where a separate encampment protest has been playing out this week, Chell said.

Sheppard said the police raid of Hamilton Hall was a “calm, precise operation.” Charges the protesters could be facing include burglary, trespassing and criminal mischief.

Adams said the student protesters “were trained on how to barricade a location, on what type of locks to use.”

Adams has said unidentified “outside agitators” hijacked the protests at Columbia this week, a claim student demonstration leaders deny.

Though he did not identify her, Adams said that among those who have participated in the Columbia encampment is a woman whose husband is a convicted terrorist. In a briefing later Wednesday at NYPD headquarters, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Rebecca Weiner said the woman wasn’t present for Tuesday night’s raid and that there’s “no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing on her part.”

“But that’s not someone who I would want necessarily influencing my child if I were a parent of somebody at Columbia,” said Weiner, adding that the woman was seen on the campus last week.

The mayor and NYPD officials declined to immediately say how many of those arrested were “outside agitators.”

Videos shared by the NYPD show cops removing chairs and other furniture used as barricades during the raid Tuesday night. Students had taken over the building early Tuesday morning amid a weekslong protest on campus over the war between Israel and Hamas.

“We regret that protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions. After the university learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded, we were left with no choice,” a university spokesman said in a statement of why the NYPD was called in. “Columbia public safety personnel were forced out of the building, and a member of our facilities team was threatened. We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation.”

The NYPD operation at City College included officers clearing an encampment set up on the campus quad and taking dozens of people into custody.

The mass arrests just before midnight followed an announcement the Harlem college would shift to online classes “until further notice,” as the campus continued to be roiled by the pro-Gaza encampment drawing students and faculty from across the City University of New York.

Cops, including Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry, were seen on video taking down a Palestinian flag from the campus and tossing it away, replacing it with an American flag.

In a briefing later at NYPD headquarters, Adams said it was “despicable” that protesters had hoisted a Palestinian flag and lauded Daughtry for replacing it with an American one.

“Blame me for being proud for being an American,” said the mayor. “We are not surrendering our way of life to anyone.”

The occupation of Hamilton Hall at Columbia began early Tuesday, hours after the school suspended students who ignored an order to break up their encampment on the campus lawn. It prompted the university to restrict access to the campus, only allowing students who live in dorms and essential services staff to remain.

“These were professionals that were here, and I just want to send a clear message out: There are people who are harmful, who are trying to radicalize our children, and we cannot ignore this,” Adams said, adding that the so-called outside agitators could be coming from abroad.

“These outside influences, I don’t know if they’re international, I think we need to look into that as well,” he said, though he didn’t elaborate on why he suspects the protests might have international connections. “But there’s an attempt to radicalize young people in this country.”

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©2024 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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