New York Police Detain Pro-Palestinian Protesters at Columbia; Take Down the Palestine Flag

Pro-Palestinian protesters occupy Columbia University building, sparking police response and arrests. Tensions reflect broader Israel-Palestine conflict and role of universities.

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Ayesha Mumtaz
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New York Police Detain Pro-Palestinian Student Protesters at Columbia University

New York Police Detain Pro-Palestinian Student Protesters at Columbia University

New York City police officers detained dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters who had occupied a building at Columbia University for over two weeks. The protesters had set up an encampment on the university's South Lawn, calling for the school to divest from Israel. On Tuesday morning, the protesters took over Columbia's Hamilton Hall, barricading the entrances and unfurling a Palestinian flag.

The university requested the NYPD's assistance, stating that the decision was made to "restore safety and order" after the building was "occupied, vandalized, and blockaded." "The protesters had chosen to escalate the situation, and we were left with no choice but to call in law enforcement," a university spokesperson said.

Hundreds of officers from the NYPD's Strategic Response Group arrived on campus to respond to the protests. The NYPD entered Hamilton Hall through a window using a ladder attached to a police vehicle. Officers used "distraction devices" like flash-bang grenades during the response, refuting reports of tear gas usage. Dozens of people were arrested and zip-tied.

Why this matters: The police response at Columbia University has faced criticism for being a militarized approach, with calls for restraint from the authorities. The situation reflects broader tensions surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict and the role of universities in the debate.

The protesters, who included both students and non-students, had been demanding that Columbia divest from companies doing business in Israel. The number of demonstrators fluctuated between 250 and 400 over the course of the two-week encampment. Similar protests have occurred at other universities across the United States, including the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Florida State University, where dozens of protesters have also been detained or arrested.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams urged the protesters to leave the area, warning that external actors were causing public safety issues. "The occupation was instigated by outside agitators, not affiliated with Columbia University," the mayor claimed at a press conference. However, a student leader disputed this assertion, maintaining that the protest was led by Columbia students.

Key Takeaways

  • NYPD detained dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University.
  • Protesters occupied a building, prompting the university to call in police.
  • Police used "distraction devices" during the response, leading to criticism.
  • Similar protests have occurred at other U.S. universities in recent years.
  • Mayor claimed outside agitators, not students, instigated the occupation.