Hundreds protest at Columbia over school's decision to suspend student groups calling for cease-fire

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Wednesday, November 15, 2023
Hundreds gather for free speech protests at Columbia University
N.J. Burkett reports from Morningside Heights, Manhattan with the latest.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets Wednesday in a show of support for the Palestinians in Gaza while demanding an end to campus censorship at Columbia University.

Outside Columbia's administration building, 250 professors walked-out in protest, joining students and alumni - all furious over the university's decision to suspend the on-campus activities of two groups, critical of Israel: Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.

Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace were suspended for the remainder of the fall semester after the university determined their protests for a cease-fire violated school policy.

"The university should be taking a stance to protect speech and protect the right of faculty and students to address these issues in an open and frank way," said Darializa Avila Chevalier.

Hundreds of people gathered on Broadway to march and stand in solidarity of the student groups.

Both of the student groups have been critical of Israel amid the ongoing war with Hamas in the Middle East.

University officials said they organized an unauthorized event and their rhetoric was "threatening and intimidating" to certain constituencies on campus.

It all comes as the Israeli counter-offensive intensifies in Gaza with the IDF pushing deeper into Gaza City.

The demonstration on campus was organized by professors who are demanding the organization reconsider its positions.

"The ability to experience discomfort is an essential part of the process of learning and building community, I work every day with colleagues who disagree with me on these and other issues," Professor Joseph Howley said. "Our disagreement does not keep me from respecting them, it does not keep us from working together, and I would never ask anyone to censure their speech just because I disagree with it or because our disagreement makes me uncomfortable."

The university reiterated that it respects the right to protest, within its "policies and procedures" and made no apologies for enforcing them.

"The university will not apologize for enforcing its policies and procedures that are in place to create a safe campus community in which core university activities can be conducted without interruption," a Columbia University spokesperson told Eyewitness News.

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