Columbia University Pro-Palestine Protesters Defy Deadline to Dismantle Encampment

Pro-Palestine protesters at Columbia University defy deadline to dismantle encampment, escalating tensions over free speech, antisemitism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus.

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Nitish Verma
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Columbia University Pro-Palestine Protesters Defy Deadline to Dismantle Encampment

Columbia University Pro-Palestine Protesters Defy Deadline to Dismantle Encampment

Pro-Palestine protesters at Columbia University have ignored a midnight deadline set by university president Minouche Shafik to dismantle their encampment on the campus lawn. The protesters, who have been occupying the space for six days, are demanding that the university divest from companies profiting from the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Shafik warned that if the protesters did not reach an agreement with the university to disperse, the school would consider "alternative options" to clear the area. This comes after the NYPD previously cleared out the encampment and arrested over 100 protesters last week, only for the protesters to quickly reassemble.

In response to Shafik's ultimatum, the pro-Palestine group "Within Our Lifetime" called for students, faculty, and others to return to the lawn and resist the university's threats. Barnard College, an affiliate of Columbia, offered to lift suspensions of students involved in the protests if they agree to follow all college rules going forward. However, many students have vowed to continue the protests collectively.

The protests have escalated tensions on campus, with some students reporting feeling unsafe, especially during the Passover holiday. Shafik faces mounting pressure from donors and lawmakers to restore order, even as she is criticized by faculty and students for involving the NYPD. Over 150 untenured faculty members staged a walkout to show support for the student protesters and condemn the arrests.

Why this matters: The Columbia protests reflect a growing trend of pro-Palestinian activism on college campuses across the U.S. The situation has become a flashpoint in the ongoing debate over free speech, antisemitism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, drawing attention from national political figures and media outlets.

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson announced he will visit Columbia, stating that Jewish students "don't feel safe" and calling the protests "antisemitic mobs." The U.S. Education Secretary has also expressed concern about incidents of antisemitism at Columbia. Amid the turmoil, calls for Shafik's resignation are growing louder, with 10 Republican House representatives joining the demands. As one student described the situation, "It's heartbreaking. I just want to go to class and learn, but instead we're dealing with this chaos on campus every day."

Key Takeaways

  • Pro-Palestine protesters at Columbia University ignore deadline to dismantle encampment.
  • Protesters demand university divest from companies profiting from Israel-Palestine conflict.
  • Tensions escalate as some students feel unsafe, especially during Passover holiday.
  • Protests reflect growing trend of pro-Palestinian activism on U.S. college campuses.
  • Calls for university president's resignation grow amid turmoil and accusations of antisemitism.