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NYPD Detains Multiple Pro-Palestinian Protesters and Clears Columbia’s Hamilton Hall Encampment

NYPD Detains Pro-Palestinian Protesters at Columbia University

In a dramatic turn of events, the New York Police Department (NYPD) detained multiple pro-Palestinian protesters who had occupied Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall. The occupation began earlier in the day when demonstrators took over the administration building to protest the Israel-Hamas war. The NYPD acted after the school’s president sought help from the department, stating that there was no other way to ensure safety and restore order on campus.

The police action occurred on the 56th anniversary of a similar incident in 1968 when students protesting racism and the Vietnam War were arrested in Hamilton Hall. Former President Donald Trump called into Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Channel to comment on the situation, praising the officers and stating that the police should have acted sooner to prevent damage to the building.

The confrontation unfolded as scores of NYPD officers, wearing helmets and riot gear, massed at the college’s entrance. They entered the occupied building through a window, arresting approximately four dozen protesters. Those inside Hamilton Hall will face charges of burglary in the third degree, criminal mischief, and trespassing, while those in the encampments outside will be charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Columbia University, in a statement issued after the police entered the campus, described seeking NYPD aid as a last resort. The university had previously stated that officers would not enter the grounds without a request from the administration or an imminent emergency. The police presence will continue until May 17, the end of the university’s commencement events.

The nationwide protests in support of Palestine began at Columbia University earlier this month and have since spread to campuses across the United States. Over 1,000 protesters have been arrested in states such as Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana, California, and New Jersey. Some of these arrests followed confrontations with police in riot gear.

The demonstrations have sparked controversy, with supporters of Israel branding them as antisemitic, while critics argue that such accusations are used to silence opposition. Although there have been instances of protesters making antisemitic remarks or violent threats, the organizers maintain that the movement is peaceful and aims to defend Palestinian rights and protest the war.

At Columbia University, protesters initially set up a tent encampment, which was cleared by police. However, the students returned and occupied Hamilton Hall, demanding divestment, financial transparency, and amnesty. Negotiations between the protesters and the university reached an impasse, leading to the police action.

The Columbia University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors criticized the administration for ignoring faculty efforts to defuse the situation. Ilana Lewkovitch, a self-described “leftist Zionist” student at Columbia, expressed her frustration with the protests, stating that it has been difficult to concentrate on her studies amid calls for Zionists to die or leave campus.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams advised the protesters to leave before the police arrived, urging them to continue advocacy through other means. The White House condemned the standoffs at Columbia University and California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, where protesters had occupied two buildings until officers intervened and made arrests.

As cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas gain traction, it remains uncertain whether the talks will lead to a reduction in protests. Some colleges, such as Northwestern University, have reached compromises with protesters to allow peaceful demonstrations until the end of spring classes.

The situation at Columbia University highlights the ongoing tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the challenges faced by universities in managing protests on their campuses. The clash between freedom of expression and maintaining order and safety continues to be a complex issue that institutions across the country must grapple with.

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