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Columbia University protest: Over 100 arrested after pro-Palestinian protest broken up


More than 100 people were arrested by New York Police officers on a preliminary charge of criminal trespass, according to a law enforcement official, as police entered the University of Columbia to disperse a pro-Palestinian protest that had started a day earlier as university president. testified before a House committee on the school’s response to anti-Semitism.

The individuals were arrested without resistance and the university is named as the plaintiff since the incident occurred on its property, the official told CNN.

Columbia President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik was in Washington, D.C., to testify before the House Education Committee, as protesters – including students, faculty and others – gathered in the upper Manhattan early Wednesday morning, setting up tents and signs.

Later in the afternoon, competing rallies of pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups developed.

Several people waving Palestinian flags got into verbal confrontations with police, who had begun corralling protesters with barricades, CNN affiliate WCBS reported. In a WCBS video, pro-Palestinian protesters could be seen confronting police and some had started small fires. A woman could be seen being taken away in handcuffs.

Four people were arrested overnight during protests in Columbia, New York police said. Police did not say what charges had been filed and gave no further details about the arrests.

Police arrested pro-Palestinian protesters who had set up camp on the South Lawn of Columbia University in New York on Thursday afternoon.

Hamas fighters launched a devastating attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage. Since Israel declared war on Hamas, more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 76,000 injured in the besieged enclave since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry.

Students and faculty set up a tent encampment on campus lawns Wednesday.

The encampment was organized by a student-led coalition of more than 120 organizations, including Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) to protest what they describe as the “conflict” of the university. continued financial investments in companies that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide and military occupation of Palestine,” according to the press release from the student coalition group CUAD.

“The Gaza Solidarity Camp was created to pressure Colombia to divest all funds, including endowment, from companies that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide and military occupation in Palestine “, declared the CUAD.

CNN has reached out to Columbia University and the university’s Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing for more information about their investments and for comment on the protest organizers’ allegations.

One of the organizing groups, including “Uptown4Palestine,” said the protest was aimed in part at raising awareness of the “ongoing genocide and displacement of Palestinians.”

During Wednesday’s protests, Columbia closed the campus gates, allowing only people with Columbia ID cards to enter. Many Columbia-affiliated pro-Palestinian protesters camped on campus overnight.

Shafik wrote a letter to the NYPD on Thursday asking for the department’s help in “expelling these individuals.”

“The actions of these individuals violate University rules and policies,” the president wrote. “The University provided multiple notices and warnings and informed camp participants that they must disperse or face immediate disciplinary action.”

The president told students that she had authorized the New York Police Department to dismantle the encampment, according to an email obtained by CNN. Shafik wrote that she authorized the move “out of concern for the security of the Columbia campus.”

“I took this extraordinary action because these are extraordinary circumstances,” Shafik wrote. “The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies. »

NYPD officers used bullhorns to tell protesters they would be arrested if they did not disperse immediately. Large crowds of Columbia students on the perimeter chanted “Shame on you” and “Students United will never be defeated.”

Shortly after 2 p.m., a group of at least 200 protesters moved to an area about two blocks from the school campus near the NYPD gathering site and police announced they would disperse soon the crowd, CNN reported. Police in helmets and batons were seen lining up in the street surrounding the group.

Protesters demonstrate at Columbia University, Thursday, April 18, 2024.

In the past, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has declined to prosecute or postponed prosecutions in which large numbers of people were arrested in connection with civil disobedience.

Online video footage appears to show NYPD officers confronting protesters outside the university Thursday morning. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Thursday posted a message on social media, warning riders that area buses are delayed due to a protest at the university.

Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar, right, under arrest.

Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar, was among those arrested Thursday, a police official told CNN. The official said Hirsi was being processed and would likely receive a summons for a criminal trespassing charge and then be released.

Hirsi, an organizer with Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, said earlier Thursday that she and two other students at Barnard College — located across the street from Columbia University — had been suspended for participating in pro-Palestinian protests .

In a report on X, Hirsi said she had “was never reprimanded or received disciplinary warnings” during her three years at the college.

“I just received notice that I am one of three students suspended for showing solidarity with Palestinians facing genocide,” Hirsi said.

Barnard is an official college of Columbia University, but also an independent educational institution.

Asked about the suspensions, a Barnard College spokesperson said the college “does not provide information about confidential procedures regarding student conduct” and referred CNN to a message sent to the college community.

Current Columbia students and alumni attended the demonstration. Among them was Nas Issa, a 2020 Columbia graduate. Issa is a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement and is currently involved in mobilizing support to help arrested students.

“We were part of the pickets that surrounded the lawns, to protect them and show them that their community is with them,” Issa told CNN.

Ry, who withheld his last name to protect his identity, told CNN he was camping on campus until the arrests were made.

“I want people to remember that we could be detached from the Palestinian people culturally and geographically,” said Ry, a history student at Columbia and member of Jewish Voice for Peace.

“But we, as students, use our privilege to stand up for people who have been oppressed for too long and we hope that other universities will answer this call and do the same,” he continued.

Shafik and the university have been criticized for how their officials handled incidents of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-Arab harassment on campus.

At the House Committee on Education and Workforce hearing, Shafik said the core of the university’s mission is to “ensure that all members of our community can engage in our cherished traditions of free speech and open debate,” citing school rules. academic conduct.

“We believe that Columbia’s role is not to protect individuals from positions they find undesirable, but rather to create an environment in which different points of view can be tested and challenged,” Shafik added. However, she acknowledged that free speech was used to justify chants and comments that put students in danger.

Last fall, a Columbia student who hung posters on campus in support of Israel was attacked. A few days later, a mobile “doxxing” billboard appeared outside Columbia’s entrance displaying the names and faces of students who a conservative nonprofit said were linked to a statement accusing Israel of being responsible for the Hamas terrorist attack.

University leaders issued a statement condemning “disturbing anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts, including intimidation and outright violence.”

The university was also criticized for hiring a professor who allegedly expressed support for Hamas on social media following the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel. That teacher was fired, Shafik said Wednesday.

Columbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on when the professor’s dismissal would be effective.

CNN’s Matt Egan and Ramishah Maruf contributed to this report.

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With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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