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300 protesters arrested at Columbia University and City College of New York

Alexandra Bacon   

300 protesters arrested at Columbia University and City College of New York
  • Hundreds of arrests have been made at Columbia University and the City College of New York.
  • Pro-Palestinian protesters had barricaded themselves in Hamilton Hall, a main campus building at Columbia.

Three hundred people have been arrested at protests at Columbia and City College of New York, police said.

Columbia has been rocked by protests for days over Israel's war on Gaza following Hamas' October 7 terror attack on Israel.

While students and faculty have been urged not to go onto campus, the school's president, Nemat Minouche Shafik, said that "a working group of Deans, university administrators, and faculty members will try to bring this crisis to a resolution."

NYPD officials took part in a press conference on Wednesday when they confirmed the number of arrests.

How it started

The protests at Columbia began on Wednesday, April 17, which coincided with Shafik testifying before Congress about antisemitism on campus.

A coalition of student groups — Columbia University Apartheid Divest, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace — took part in setting up "Gaza Solidarity Encampments" in the center of campus.

One of the goals of the protest was to convince the university to divest all its "finances, including the endowment, from companies and institutions that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine," according to Columbia University Apartheid Divest's website.

Police were called in

On Thursday, April 18, Shafik authorized the New York Police Department to clear the encampment. "Attempts to resolve the situation were rejected by the students involved. As a result, NYPD officers are now on campus and the process of clearing the encampment is underway," she said in a statement.

This resulted in the arrest of more than 100 people on suspicion of criminal trespass, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a news conference.

Protests have continued since then.

President Joe Biden weighed in

Chabad at Columbia, a group that supports Jewish students, released a letter on social media that said Jewish students were targeted with offensive rhetoric during the protests.

President Joe Biden also called out antisemitism on campus in his Passover statement in April.

"We've seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews. This blatant Antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous — and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country," he said.

Columbia student organizations participating in the protests have insisted that their protests are peaceful.

One student group, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, said in a statement on X last month that they are frustrated by the attention paid to "inflammatory individuals who do not represent us."

"We firmly reject any form of hate or bigotry and stand against non-students attempting to disrupt our solidarity," the statement said.

On Monday, Shafik released a statement that said the university would not "divest from Israel." The university also ordered protesters to leave their encampment by 2 p.m. on Monday and threatened students who defied the order with suspension.

Protesters took over the Hamilton Hall

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, dozens of protesters barricaded themselves in Hamilton Hall, one of the main buildings on the Manhattan campus. They used metal gates, tables, and chairs as barricades and zip-tied the doors shut.

The protesters maintained their demands of "divestment, financial transparency, and amnesty," Columbia University Apartheid Divest said in a press release on X.

NYPD in riot gear were called to clear the protesters

On Tuesday evening, NYPD officers in riot gear entered Hamilton Hall, where protesters had been camping out for around 20 hours.

According to CNN, the NYPD used loud distraction devices, "flash-bang grenades" to disperse the protesters who had barricaded themselves in the building.

Shafik released a letter to the NYPD on Tuesday, which requested that police remain on the campus until May 17, two days after the graduation ceremony.

"The takeover of Hamilton Hall and the continued encampments raise serious safety concerns for the individuals involved and the entire community," the letter read.

The protests have spread to other campuses across the country. In Los Angeles, police were called to the UCLA campus early Wednesday after violence broke out when counter-protesters showed up to tear down barricades at the pro-Palestinian encampment, the LA Times reported.