Over 100 arrested as NYPD clears pro-Palestinian demonstrators from Columbia University campus

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Friday, April 19, 2024
100+ arrested as NYPD clears protest from Columbia University campus
Jim Dolan has the latest on the arrests made at Columbia University.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Over 100 pro-Palestinian protestors were arrested on Columbia University's campus in Manhattan Thursday afternoon, a day after the school's president faced questions from lawmakers on Capitol Hill over claims of antisemitism on campus.

In a letter to students and staff, the school's president, Minouche Shafik, said she authorized the action.

"I regret that all of these attempts to resolve the situation were rejected by the students involved. As a result, NYPD officers are now on campus and the process of clearing the encampment is underway," she said.

One after the other pro-Palestinian demonstrators were led to NYPD buses in zip ties, while a growing crowd chanted in support of their cause, just outside the university. Civil rights activist Cornel West also joined demonstrators to show solidarity.

Eyewitness News cameras on the scene Thursday captured dozens of arrests with police filling up at least three buses with arrested protesters, police officials say was for a violation of university rules.

Columbia said it gave multiple warnings and offered to continue discussions with the protestors if they would disperse the lawn. Many did on their own, but those attempts were rejected by many as well.

NYPD officials say over 108 arrests were made, mostly for trespassing and disorderly conduct. Two protesters were arrested for obstruction of governmental administration and trespassing.

Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD officials held a press conference in response to the protests and arrests at Columbia University.

Rep. Ilhan Omar's daughter was one of the dozens of protesters arrested for trespassing, and will receive a summons. The Barnard student was also suspended.

Even so, protests continued on campus into Thursday evening.

"I took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances. The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies," Shafik said in the letter.

Police say no violence or injuries occurred during the arrests.

Student protesters had set up an encampment on the South Lawn of the school's Morningside Heights campus early Wednesday, vowing to stay until Columbia divested from Israel-related business.

The protestors accuse the school's leadership of supporting what they say is genocide in Gaza during the war between Israel and Hamas.

"She's suppressing the First Amendment right to stand up for what is right. And regardless of whether or not it violates a school protocol, they are standing up for what is right for the people of humanity. We are one people, we are all humans," demonstrator Matthew Smith said.

This week, Shafik has been testifying on Capitol Hill about Columbia's handling of an alleged antisemitic environment.

Shafik took a firm stance against antisemitism in the congressional hearing on Wednesday, but she faced bruising criticism from Republicans who say her actions haven't supported her words, especially when it comes to disciplining faculty and students accused of bias.

Her visit to Capitol Hill was a reprise of a December hearing that led to the resignations of presidents at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. It's part of a Republican campaign to investigate antisemitism at America's most prestigious universities since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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