Columbia University Campus Protest Leads to NYPD Raids and Arrests

Will There Be A Global Student Uprising Against Genocide?

Columbia University Campus Protest Leads to NYPD Raids and Arrests_

Late Tuesday evening, the New York Police Department (NYPD) intervened at Columbia University, arresting approximately 50 students who had taken control of Hamilton Hall. This action came after a two-week period of escalating protests on the university grounds concerning the Israel-Gaza conflict.

Anti Genocide Student Occupation and Police Response

Activists had occupied Hamilton Hall, a key building on the New York campus, for nearly a full day, starting their takeover early Tuesday. Their occupation was part of broader campus unrest that has been ongoing for two weeks.

During the NYPD’s operation, there were initial reports suggesting the use of tear gas, which were later refuted by NYPD Assistant Commissioner of Public Information, Carlos Nieve, who stated in an interview with Axios,

“The NYPD does not use tear gas.”

Columbia officials described the occupation of Hamilton Hall as an action that left them no other option but to intervene, citing the building was “occupied, vandalised and blockaded.”

University’s Stance and Student Demands

In the early hours of Tuesday, the student protesters had barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall, a reaction following the university’s decision to suspend students who did not comply with a dispersal deadline linked to a pro-Palestinian encampment. Ben Chang, Columbia’s Vice President for Communications, expressed the institution’s priority on safety via an emailed statement to The Epoch Times:

“The safety of every single member of this community is paramount,”

Chang noted, advising non-essential personnel and students to avoid the Morningside campus.

The protesters, energized by historical precedents of student movements, voiced their demands through a statement on Instagram. They declared their intent to persist until the university divested from companies allegedly supporting the war efforts in Gaza, stating:

“This action will force the university to confront the blood on its hands.”

They further accused Columbia of complicity in what they called “Israel’s ongoing genocidal assault on the Gaza strip,” positioning themselves in the tradition of anti-apartheid and anti-genocide activism.

Escalation and Breakdown of Negotiations

As the protests escalated, demands included the cessation of alleged land acquisitions in both the Harlem neighborhood and Palestine, an end to on-campus policing, and severing academic ties with Israeli institutions.

Despite intense negotiations, Columbia University’s President, Minouche Shafik, stated that the university would not divest from Israel, emphasizing adherence to its foundational principles. However, the university proposed alternatives such as accelerating the review of student proposals by the Advisory Committee for Socially Responsible Investing and enhancing transparency regarding its investments.

Suspension of Students and Impact

Ben Chang confirmed that the university had begun suspending involved students who had not complied with the 2 p.m. deadline imposed on Monday. The presence of the protesters had notably disturbed campus operations and had an unsettling impact on many Jewish students and faculty.

Chang highlighted the ongoing efforts to maintain a safe and inclusive environment on campus:

“We’ve been suspending students as part of this next phase of our efforts to ensure safety on campus,”

he mentioned during a press briefing, as reported by USA Today.

The university’s stance and the NYPD’s intervention mark a significant moment in the ongoing dialogue around campus activism, safety, and the broader geopolitical conflicts that often intersect with university policies and student activism.

History of Student Protests at Columbia University

Columbia University, one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions of higher education in the United States, has a long and dynamic history of student activism. Over the decades, Columbia students have engaged in numerous protests, often becoming a focal point for broader societal and political movements.

1968 protests
56 years ago today (April 30, 1968), Columbia University was reeling under similar anti-war protests!
That time, it was against the Vietnam War.
1968 Protests: A Watershed Moment

Perhaps the most famous of these occurred in 1968, when Columbia University became the stage for a major student uprising. The protests were initially sparked by the university’s involvement in the Vietnam War and its plans to construct a gymnasium in Morningside Park, which was seen as racially insensitive and an act of “gym crow” segregation affecting the predominantly Black residents of Harlem. The situation escalated when students discovered links between the university and the Institute for Defense Analyses, a think tank supporting the U.S. Defense Department.

Students occupied five buildings, including the president’s office at Low Library, leading to a week-long standoff that drew national attention. The administration’s call for police intervention resulted in violent clashes, with over 700 students being arrested and hundreds injured. The 1968 protests are often cited as a turning point in U.S. student activism, significantly affecting university governance and policy nationwide.

Columbia University Campus Protest Leads to NYPD Raids and Arrests
Anti-Apartheid Movements in the 1980s

In the 1980s, Columbia University students again took a stand, this time against apartheid in South Africa. Echoing a wider divestment movement across many U.S. campuses, Columbia students demanded that the university divest its holdings in companies doing business in South Africa. The protests included sit-ins and building occupations. In 1985, the university trustees voted to divest from companies with business operations in South Africa, marking a significant victory for the protesters.

Protests Against Racism and War in the 1990s and 2000s

The 1990s and early 2000s saw a series of protests focusing on a range of issues, from affirmative action and racial equality to opposition against the Iraq War. In 1996, students staged a sit-in to protest against the lack of ethnic studies programs, which eventually led to the establishment of an Ethnic Studies department.

Climate Change and Racial Justice

In more recent years, Columbia students have focused on modern global and national issues, including climate change and racial justice. Protests have targeted the university’s investment in fossil fuels and its handling of sexual assault cases on campus. The climate change activism led to the university’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels in 2020.

Ongoing Struggles and New Challenges

The 2020s have continued to see vibrant student activism at Columbia. The Black Lives Matter movement and issues surrounding equity and inclusion have been at the forefront. Students have also protested against the university’s policies and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, advocating for fair tuition rates during periods of online-only learning.

What do you think?


Written by Siphiwe Dlamini

Name: Siphiwe Dlamini
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Occupation: Journalist and Political Analyst

Siphiwe Dlamini is a dynamic and passionate journalist and political analyst based in Johannesburg, South Africa. With a unique blend of academic expertise and practical experience, Siphiwe has established himself as a trusted voice in the field of journalism, particularly in political reporting and analysis.

Siphiwe holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism, where he honed his skills in investigative reporting, news writing, and multimedia storytelling. Additionally, he pursued a degree in Political Science, deepening his understanding of political systems, international relations, and policy analysis. This interdisciplinary educational background equips him with a comprehensive understanding of the socio-political landscape, enabling him to provide insightful commentary on current affairs.

Throughout his career, Siphiwe has demonstrated a commitment to journalistic integrity and a relentless pursuit of truth. He has worked for several prominent media outlets, including leading newspapers, television networks, and online platforms. His reporting has covered a wide range of topics, from domestic politics and social issues to international affairs and human rights.

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