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Over 100 Arrested by NYPD During Pro-Palestinian Protest at Columbia University

More than 100 protesters were apprehended by the NYPD on Thursday at Columbia University’s campus after erecting encampments to demonstrate against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Eyewitnesses reported that police officers forcibly removed students from tents situated at the heart of Columbia’s Manhattan campus. University President Minouche Shafik informed law enforcement that the encampment had commenced early Wednesday morning, with over 100 individuals occupying the South Lawn of the campus.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams confirmed that the NYPD had conducted over 108 arrests.

Columbia University Apartheid Divest (CUAD), a coalition of student groups, stated that more than 120 individuals, including three legal observers, were detained at Columbia’s “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” CUAD asserted that the encampment had been established in the early hours of Wednesday.

In a social media post, Isra Hirsi, the daughter of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, disclosed her arrest and trespassing charge, indicating her suspension from Barnard College alongside two other students for supporting Palestinians. Notably, Hirsi highlighted receiving her first disciplinary warning in her three years at Barnard.

During the protest, participants wore keffiyehs, a symbol of Palestinian heritage, and held signs advocating for various causes, including defunding Israel and ensuring the safety of pro-Palestinian demonstrators at Columbia University.

Edrees Mohamed, a political science student at St. Francis College, voiced his support for the Palestinian cause amid police interventions. Mohamed emphasized the disparity between the challenges faced by protesters and the plight of those in Gaza.

Despite repeated warnings to disperse, demonstrators remained adamant, resulting in arrests and suspensions. Columbia University’s decision to suspend participants in the unauthorized encampment reflects its adherence to campus policies on protests.

The incident marked the first mass arrests on campus since 1968, underscoring the significance of the protests and the university’s response. Notably, Columbia University President Minouche Shafik addressed concerns about antisemitism during a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., reaffirming the institution’s commitment to free speech.

CUAD, in collaboration with other advocacy groups, organized the encampment to denounce Columbia’s financial investments in companies profiting from Israeli actions in Palestine. The lawn, previously designated as a “free speech zone,” served as the backdrop for the demonstration, aligning with campus policies.

The protest at Columbia University adds to the nationwide movement opposing Israel’s actions in Gaza. Pro-Palestinian demonstrations have emerged across major cities, signaling growing discontent and a demand for change.

Amidst the protests, conversations between individuals with differing viewpoints, such as A.J. Edelman, an Israeli bobsled captain, and demonstrators, highlight the complexities and tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The involvement of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group and the arrest of legal observers have drawn criticism from civil liberties advocates, raising concerns about police conduct and the handling of student protests. Donna Lieberman of the New York Civil Liberties Union criticized Columbia’s decision to involve law enforcement, emphasizing the importance of fostering an environment conducive to open discourse and student activism.

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