Protests spread to other colleges in Tri-State amid criticism over response at Columbia

ByLindsay Tuchman, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Friday, April 26, 2024
Protests spread to other colleges as negotiations continue at Columbia
CeFaan Kim has the latest details on negotiations at Columbia as the deadline rapidly approaches.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Student protests at colleges and universities continue to pop up in the Tri-State area and around the country as schools struggle with where to draw the line between allowing free expression while maintaining safe and inclusive campuses.

Demonstrators established a new encampment in solidarity with Gaza at the City College of New York in Hamilton Heights on Thursday morning. There were about a dozen tents and several dozen people there as officers remained on the scene.

Later in the afternoon, pro-Palestinian protesters stormed FIT as security was unable to hold them back as dozens flooded the lobby.

"Personnel that came here to support us rushed in and basically security pushed them onto the ground," one student said. "That's very troubling because I don't think it should ever come to that. Security is supposed to be here to protect the people, not these buildings."

By the evening, it became a peaceful gathering with security allowing food, water, and medical supplies to be brought to students inside. Supplies even came from students at NYU.

And at Princeton University in New Jersey, roughly 100 people gathered on campus while a small number started putting up about a half dozen tents.

Princeton officials said that is a violation of university policy and after repeated warnings to leave, two graduate students were arrested for allegedly trespassing. The tents were taken down by protesters and the two graduate students were barred from campus.

RELATED | College protests live updates: More protests, encampments pop up at Princeton, Northwestern and more

Meanwhile at Columbia University, the 48-hour conversation window is now down to less than 24 hours, as officials try to come to an agreement with student protesters ahead of graduation. It's not yet clear if protesters and the university are any closer to a resolution, but the university did say Thursday night that talks have shown progress are continuing as planned. It's believed that the extension for talks ends Friday.

The situation was quiet on campus Thursday night, but outside of it, no less than half a dozen groups, comprised mostly of non-students, were demonstrating and circling the school.

Police made a few arrests outside the university, but it was minimal in comparison to when tensions escalated after New York police flooded the campus and arrested more than 100 activists last week. Officials said they took the "extraordinary step" of requesting police intervention because the encampment had disrupted campus life and created a "harassing and intimidating environment" for many students.

That decision fueled currents of rage that quickly washed across the country, prompting students at other college campuses to set up their own protest encampments.

While school officials try to work things out, a separate war of words ignited between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some NYPD officials about the pro-Palestinian protest and encampment.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was critical of the university's decision to allow police to respond to the campus earlier this week.

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell fired back at Ocasio-Cortez's comments.

Later Thursday morning, NYPD Deputy Commissioner, Operations Kaz Daughtry also weighed in.

One day prior, an agreement was made that protesters would dismantle some of the tents that have filled the campus lawn, ensure that only Columbia students were on the premises, and that safety and anti-discrimination were top of mind.

The students are asking the school to divest from any company that they say is benefitting from Israel's war in Gaza.

Representative Ilhan Omar and her daughter Isra Hirsi were spotted at the Columbia encampment on Thursday. Hirsi, a Barnard College student, was arrested last week and suspended.

Protests largely remained peaceful and the university agreed not to call police on the remaining protesters in the encampment, but politics did come into play as House Speaker Mike Johnson visited with New York Republicans.

"There's executive authority that would be appropriate if this is not contained quickly and if these threats and intimidation do not stop, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard," Johnson said. "We have to bring order to these campuses."

The speaker added that he does not think University President Minouche Shafik has the situation under control.

As for Speaker Johnson, Governor Kathy Hochul encouraged him to go back to Washington and take up the migrant bill.

"Politicizing this and bringing the entourage to put a spotlight on this is only adding to the division," she said.

At this point, classes and final exams at Columbia will remain virtual or hybrid. The semester ends Monday with graduation set for May 15, but it remains to be seen what that will look like at this point.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

ALSO WATCH | Multiple arrests during protest at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn

In a demonstration Tuesday night, arrests were made at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.


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