Mass Arrests at Columbia University and Ongoing Clashes at UCLA

NYPD clears pro-Palestinian protesters from Columbia University, sparking wider campus unrest over Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arrests made, concerns over graduation disruption.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Dozens Arrested, One Injured as Police Clear Columbia University Protest

Dozens Arrested, One Injured as Police Clear Columbia University Protest

On Tuesday night, the New York Police Department (NYPD) entered the campus of Columbia University to clear out pro-Palestinian protesters who had occupied Hamilton Hall, an administration building. The confrontation resulted in dozens of arrests and one reported injury.

The police action came at the request of the university administration, which stated that the occupation and encampments posed a "clear and present danger" to the community. Police used flash bangs to disrupt the protesters as they entered the building through a window. Several buses were seen taking away arrested protesters, with their hands tied behind their backs using plastic zip ties.

The decision to call in the NYPD occurred exactly 56 years after a similar police action in 1968 to quell a student occupation protesting racism and the Vietnam War. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger had previously expressed regret about calling in the police to clear a protest, but said there was "no choice" this time after the protesters occupied and vandalized the building, forcing out campus security and threatening a facilities worker.

Why this matters: The protests at Columbia are part of a wider wave of demonstrations at campuses across the country, including UCLA, over issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The White House has condemned the standoffs, stating that student occupation of academic buildings is "absolutely the wrong approach."

The protesters, who are part of a movement opposing Israeli military action in Gaza and demanding university divestment from companies profiting from the conflict, accused the university of creating an unsafe environment and repressing the demonstrations. Organizers say the movement is a peaceful one aimed at defending Palestinian rights, though some protesters have been accused of making antisemitic remarks.

Mayor Eric Adams and police officials claimed the occupation was instigated by "outside agitators" not affiliated with Columbia, but a student leader disputed this assertion. The university had given the protesters an ultimatum to abandon the encampment or face suspension before requesting police intervention.

Similar protests have occurred at other universities nationwide, with over 1,000 arrests reported in the last two weeks. At the University of Southern Florida, police fired tear gas at students, while at the University of New Mexico, 16 people were arrested. Brown University reached an agreement with protesters to consider divesting from Israel in order to end the demonstrations peacefully.

Columbia University said in a statement, "The decision to call the police was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they were championing." The university has asked the NYPD to remain on campus until May 17, two days after its graduation ceremony, as concerns remain about further protests disrupting the celebratory mood for students and families. Meanwhile, the protests at UCLA continue, with violent clashes reported between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and counter-protesters.

Key Takeaways

  • NYPD cleared pro-Palestinian protesters from Columbia University campus, resulting in arrests.
  • Protesters occupied an administration building, forcing out campus security and threatening a worker.
  • Protests at Columbia are part of a wider wave of campus demonstrations over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • Similar protests have occurred at other universities, with over 1,000 arrests reported in 2 weeks.
  • Columbia asked NYPD to remain on campus until graduation due to concerns about further protests.