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Rep. Ilhan Omar’s daughter among students suspended by Barnard College for refusing to leave pro-Gaza encampment

The daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar said she was suspended Thursday by Barnard College after refusing to leave an encampment set up on campus in support of Gaza.

Isra Hirsi, 21, said she received notice that she and at least two other students had been suspended for “showing solidarity with Palestinians facing genocide,” Hirsi wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, is arrested Thursday.Kelsea Petersen/NBC News

Hirsi, an organizer for a student group that advocates for Palestinian interests, said it was the first time she had been punished as a student activist in her three years at the New York school.

“Those of us living in the Gaza solidarity camp will not be intimidated,” she wrote.

Barnard said it has temporarily suspended some Columbia and Barnard students who refused multiple written and verbal requests to leave an unauthorized tent encampment on Columbia’s South Lawn Thursday morning.

More than 100 people occupy the area, Columbia University President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik said in a memo to police.

“I have determined that the encampment and resulting disruption constitute a clear and present danger to the substantial operation of the university,” the memo states.

Shafik said protesters entered without permission, refused to disperse and damaged campus property, among other violations.

“Columbia is committed to enabling members of our community to engage in political expression – within established rules and with respect for the safety of all,” the memo said.

Barnard did not say how many students were suspended or confirm that Hirsi was among them. He did not say how long the suspension would last, but said he would continue to suspend remaining students.

“Now and always, we prioritize our students learning and living in an inclusive, harassment-free environment,” the school said in a memo regarding the suspensions.

Hirsi could not immediately be reached for comment.

Some students refused to leave an unauthorized encampment in Columbia. Isabelle Farfan / NBC News
At least three people were arrested Thursday during protests at Columbia University.Kelsea Petersen/NBC News

Omar did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Democrat, who represents Minnesota, is a Somali refugee who made history as one of the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress.

On Wednesday, Omar asked Shafik about the campus protests during a congressional hearing in which Shafik strongly denounced anti-Semitism.

Omar told Shafik she was “dismayed” to learn that Columbia had suspended six students earlier this month for their involvement in a pro-Palestinian panel on campus.

“There has recently been an attack on the democratic rights of students across the country,” Omar said.

Tensions over free speech have flared on some American college campuses since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel in October 2023.

This week, the University of Southern California canceled a Muslim student’s commencement speech due to safety concerns. Last week, a University of California, Berkeley professor confronted a Muslim student at a dinner for law students.

In a statement released Thursday, Shafik said she authorized police to evacuate the camp “out of concern for safety” on campus.

New York police said they have arrested three people at the camp so far, aged 26, 30 and 35.

By late Thursday afternoon, police had dismantled the original tent encampment, but protesters were beginning to build a new one on an adjacent lawn.

Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian protests took place in Morningside Heights in northern Manhattan on Thursday.Isabelle Farfan / NBC News

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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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