Mass Arrests on Columbia Campus as NYPD Clamps Down on Pro-Gaza Protest: Scores Detained

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Hundreds of NYPD officers converged on Columbia University to reclaim a building overtaken by pro-Palestine demonstrators.

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A number of student protesters are believed to have been apprehended following police entries into an upper floor of Hamilton Hall—renamed Hind Hall by demonstrators in honor of a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed in Gaza in January.

For weeks, protests have persisted at this New York university, igniting similar actions at approximately 50 campuses nationwide.

On Tuesday night, Columbia authorities stated they were compelled to call in police after Hamilton Hall was “occupied, vandalized, and blockaded”.

Just before 11pm EST, the NYPD announced that the building had been secured and roughly 100 individuals were arrested. They confirmed there were no resistances to arrest and no injuries reported.

Ahead of the operation, police had cordoned off several city blocks as hundreds of officers assembled near the campus, equipped with zip ties.

Arrests commenced just after 9pm. Detained protesters were escorted from the campus along Amsterdam Avenue to awaiting police buses, with some being carried by officers.

The NYPD refuted claims that tear gas was used on the demonstrators, attributing such reports to misinformation online. However, CNN mentioned that officers might deploy flashbang grenades “to divert or startle” protesters.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post noted that some officers had entered Hamilton Hall with weapons drawn.

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had visited the protesters at Columbia the previous week, tweeted a caution as the police action unfolded.

Her tweet stated: “If any child gets hurt tonight, the blame will lie with the mayor and university presidents. Others have managed peaceful, de-escalatory responses. This represents a failure of leadership and jeopardizes public safety. It’s a disaster in progress. I implore the Mayor to change this approach.”

As officers apprehended demonstrators, students yelled “Shame on you”.

During the police intervention, Columbia University stated: “Shortly after 9 p.m. tonight, NYPD was summoned to the campus at the request of the University. This action was taken to restore safety and order to our community.

“We regret that the demonstrators chose to intensify the situation through their actions. Upon discovering overnight that Hamilton Hall was taken over, vandalized, and barricaded, and after our public safety staff were expelled and a facilities team member was threatened, we had no alternative. We cannot compromise the safety of our community or allow the situation to escalate further.”

Reports indicate that Columbia’s president, Minouche Shafik, requested a police presence on campus until May 17, two days post-graduation.

Earlier that Tuesday, the White House criticized the students of Columbia University who seized Hamilton Hall to protest the conflict in Gaza, warning university leaders of potential consequences for attempting to forcibly evacuate them.

“The president firmly believes that forcibly occupying a building on campus is absolutely the wrong way to protest,” stated John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council.

He further remarked that President Joe Biden views the takeover as “not a form of peaceful protest.”

His remarks followed shortly after the Biden administration approved a bill allocating $26.4bn to Israel to support its ongoing conflict in Gaza, which has resulted in over 34,000 Palestinian deaths, predominantly women and children. More than 100 Columbia students had been arrested two weeks prior during peaceful demonstrations on the campus.

Early Tuesday morning, students stormed into Hamilton Hall, hanging banners from the windows and barricading the doors. The hall holds historical significance as it was among several buildings occupied during a 1968 civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protest at the university.

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