Columbia University announces increased safety measures ahead of Passover

Monday, April 22, 2024
MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- NYPD officials say the Jewish holiday of Passover, which begins Monday, may serve as a catalyst for extremist groups or individuals to commit acts of violence or intimidation.

Meanwhile, Columbia University instructed all schools and programs to allow for remote learning on Monday as tensions on and around the Morningside Heights campus remain elevated due to pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

The University says it will also increase security patrols and improve ID checks.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators returned to the campus Sunday to lend their support to the students who are sitting in with sleeping bags and tents on the lawn.

New video shows tense moments between the NYPD and pro-Palestinian protesters as demonstrations continued outside of Columbia University over the weekend.

Mayor Eric Adams released a statement Sunday saying in part,

"I am horrified and disgusted with the antisemitism being spewed at and around the Columbia University campus - like the example of a young woman holding a sign with an arrow pointing to Jewish students stating 'Al-Qasam's Next Targets,' or another where a woman is literally yelling 'We are Hamas,' or another where groups of students are chanting 'We don't want no Zionists here' - and I condemn this hate speech in the strongest of terms. Supporting a terrorist organization that aims is to kill Jews is sickening and despicable. As I have repeatedly said, hate has no place in our city, and I have instructed the NYPD to investigate any violation of law that is reported. Rest assured, the NYPD will not hesitate to arrest anyone who is found to be breaking the law."

Police say they arrested three people on Saturday, far fewer than the 113 people taken into custody earlier in the week.

"The students at Columbia took a very brave step and said enough is enough," said The People's Form Educational Director Layan Fuleihan.

Columbia's president has said the university's policies for demonstrations are to support both the right to expression and the safety and function of the campus.

On Saturday night, a clash with the NYPD led to several arrests on top of more than a hundred arrests on Thursday alone, including students for not tearing down their tents on campus.

Students continue with their sit-in on campus with their sleeping bags, Their gripe is the handling of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

They want the Ivy League school to divest its stocks, funds and endowment from companies that they say profit from Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.

"The level of pain, anger and deep love for our people is what drives me, what brings me," said Basheer Al Araj.

Al Araj, who is Syrian is a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement.

"Seeing the parallels, witnessing the level of violence that Palestinians in Gaza, Palestinians in the West Bank, Palestinians all across Palestine are being subjected to," he said.

Others are shouting support for Israel.

"The whole thing breaks my heart and especially, I think the worst part, the most horrible thing is what's going on with these hostages that it's 198 days today," said retired Columbia University Administrator Reva Feinstein.

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