Columbia University protest: Pro-Palestinian protesters occupying Hamilton Hall face eviction

NEW YORK (WABC) — The NYPD has begun operations at Columbia University and are making arrests Tuesday night after receiving authorization from the school to send police to campus.

Officers could be seen climbing a ladder and entering the building through a second floor window of Hamilton Hall.

The major development comes minutes after a shelter-in-place order was issued for students as police activity intensified around the campus.

Students were told to “shelter for your safety as there is a lot of activity on the Morningside campus.” Violation will result in disciplinary action,” the message continued.

NYPD officers gathered outside the school and began setting up barricades near the campus after dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters stormed Hamilton Hall early Tuesday.

Video footage shows protesters on Columbia's Manhattan campus locking arms in front of Hamilton Hall early Tuesday, smashing part of a glass door and carrying furniture and metal barricades into the building.

The school said in a statement that the protestors would be expelled.

“The protesters have chosen to resort to an unacceptable situation – damaging property, breaking doors and windows and blocking entrances – and we are following through with the consequences we outlined yesterday,” the school's statement said.

Students who stayed at the camp “are now suspended. Those students will be barred from all academic and recreational spaces and will only have access to their private residences. Seniors will not be eligible to graduate.”

Meanwhile, protesters at Hamilton Hall refused to leave, and on Tuesday evening, Mayor Eric Adams, along with NYPD officials, said, “We can't wait for this situation to escalate. This has to end now.”

Mayor Eric Adams and NYPD officials have an update on the ongoing protests at Columbia University.

“Over the past few weeks, we have noticed that the protests are being coordinated by professional outside agitators,” said Mayor Adams. “These individuals are not connected to Colombia and create serious public safety problems.”

NYPD Commissioner Edward Capan and Deputy Commissioner for Intel Rebecca Weiner outlined the NYPD's observations of increased disruptive tactics, including individuals in black, barricades and destruction of property.

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“These once peaceful protests are being exploited,” said Commissioner Kapan.

In a demonstration of unrest, a two-minute video was shown, which the commissioner described as highlighting aggressive tactics and, according to him, the involvement of outsiders not connected to the university. Footage showed demonstrators and outside actors reinforcing entry points into Hamilton Hall.

At this point, police have not been called to assist the school in removing protesters, but officials say the situation will change and the NYPD is ready to help if needed.

“The NYPD has to stand on the sidelines and be ready to deal” if Columbia University calls, NYPD Chief Jeffrey Madre said. “The NPYD is always ready. We will not go onto Columbia property without a specific request from them or unless there is imminent danger.”

Ben Chang, vice president of Columbia's public affairs office, noted that the number of demonstrators in Hamilton Hall numbered in the dozens, with dozens more on the South Lawn. He compared that to 37,000 students and 15,000 who will graduate on May 15.

A graduate student representing the student union organizing the main encampment said she believed there were up to 60 protesters inside Hamilton Hall.

This building may have been chosen because of its importance, as it has been the focus of campus protests and captures throughout history. It was one of several occupied during the 1968 civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests on campus.

See | A Columbia University civil rights professor looks back at the 1968 anti-Vietnam War protests:

Darla Miles talks with Jim Goonan, who participated in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests at Columbia University in 1968.

The campus is closed to non-essential personnel and the school has restricted access to its Morningside Heights campus to students living in designated accommodations and staff providing essential services.

Students continue to demand that the university divest from businesses with stakes in Israel, and compare the war in Gaza to apartheid behavior in South Africa.

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See | Student journalist Jessica Schwalb described witnessing the aggression and protests on campus:

Columbia student journalist Jessica Schwalbe describes experiencing protests on campus.

Chang said the school is negotiating in good faith with student protesters and that these new measures are in place to ensure a smooth start on the quad in two weeks.

“We don't want to miss the graduation ceremony of thousands of students and their families and friends. Remember that many in this graduating class didn't get to celebrate when they graduated from high school because of the pandemic, and we owe it to our graduates and their loved ones to honor their accomplishments as many of them become the first in their families to graduate from university.” ” said the President of Columbia University Dr.

Columbia has not announced whether it plans to forcibly remove dozens of students from the encampment or Hamilton Hall.

“The university has behaved stubbornly and arrogantly, refusing to be flexible on some of our fundamental issues,” protester Suda Polat said. He said the students would return to the table if Columbia was willing to discuss withdrawing from Israel.

Earlier Monday morning, in a letter from Shafiq, the school rejected the protesters' “priority demand” and said it would not withdraw from Israel. The university acknowledged the pain the camp caused, especially for Jewish students.

“I know that many of our Jewish students and other students have found the situation intolerable in recent weeks. Many have left campus, which is a tragedy,” the statement said. “To those students and their families, I want to make it clear to you: You are a valuable part of the Columbia community. This is your campus, too. We are committed to making Columbia safe for everyone and making sure you feel welcome. Valued.”

Highlights from last week at Columbia University

There has been growing criticism of Columbia's handling of pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus, including when the administration asked the NYPD to come in and remove protesters, leading to more than 100 arrests earlier this month.

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In a 62-14 vote, Columbia's faculty senate voted Friday in favor of investigating the school's leadership, led by Chancellor Minuch Shafik.

The 13-member executive committee shared a report citing several actions and decisions it believes have harmed the company. Notably, the group unanimously opposed bringing the NYPD onto campus last Thursday to remove protesters from their encampment, but Shafiq did so anyway.

It was a significant — but largely symbolic — move that faculty members condemned Friday, but Shafiq retained the support of trustees, who have the power to hire or fire the president.

The votes come after Columbia banned a student protest leader from campus in January for incendiary comments.

In a recently resurfaced video, Kaimani James, a student activist associated with the Columbia University Coalition on Apartheid Divest (CUAD), commented that “Zionists don't deserve to live.”

In an interview with Bill Ritter, New York City Mayor Eric Adams called the college protests unprecedented. During the interview, Adams said he believed outside insurgents were behind the protests.

“I've never seen the hateful, hurtful and hurtful rhetoric that we're seeing now. I can't remember during the protest period when we called for the elimination or extinction of any particular group,” Adams said.

See also | Mayor Adams addresses unrest on NYC college campuses:

Bill Ritter spoke with Mayor Eric Adams about the protests at Columbia University and other colleges in New York City.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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