Columbia Uni Directs NYPD to Remove Students Protesting War

REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Scores of Columbia University students were arrested Thursday afternoon after they rebuffed authorities’ pleas to vacate an on-campus tent city erected in support of Palestine.

“Since you have refused to disperse, you will now be placed under arrest for trespassing,” the NYPD told protesters through a loudspeaker. “If you resist arrest, you may face additional charges.”

Police officers began taking protesters into custody at around 1:30 p.m., putting them in flex-cuffs and loading them onto buses parked nearby. “Shame! Shame!” some chanted as the arrests unfolded. Others broke out in their own chant of, “Columbia, Columbia you will see, Palestine will be free,” and “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, will not rest.”

Later, left-wing academic and fringe presidential candidate Cornel West appeared, announcing to protesters, “I stand here in solidarity with you. I stand in solidarity with human suffering.”

Yesterday, Columbia President Minouche Shafik and three top Columbia officials appeared before a congressional panel, promising to tamp down antisemitism among the student body. Shafik vowed to punish two Columbia professors who expressed support for Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel that killed more than 1,100 people, and agreed that antisemitism has been a major issue at the Ivy League school.

Shafik on Thursday sent a letter to the university community, saying that she authorized a request that the NYPD clear the protesters “[o]ut of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus.”

“I took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances,” Shafik wrote. “The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies. Through direct conversations and in writing, the university provided multiple notices of these violations, including a written warning at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday notifying students who remained in the encampment as of 9:00 p.m. that they would face suspension pending investigation. We also tried through a number of channels to engage with their concerns and offered to continue discussions if they agreed to disperse.”

Shafik said it is a point of “regret” that attempts to resolve the situation were unsuccessful. Protests, her letter went on, “have a storied history at Columbia and are an essential component of free speech in America and on our campus.”

“We work hard to balance the rights of students to express political views with the need to protect other students from rhetoric that amounts to harassment and discrimination,” Shafik continued. “We updated our protest policy to allow demonstrations on very short notice and in prime locations in the middle of campus while still allowing students to get to class, and labs and libraries to operate. The current encampment violates all of the new policies, severely disrupts campus life, and creates a harassing and intimidating environment for many of our students.”

She said Columbia is “committed to academic freedom and to the opportunity for students and faculty to engage in political expression,” but within the rules and “with respect for the safety of all.”

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