BREAKING NEWS

Police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall after occupation

Apr 30, 2024, 9:59 PM

Using a tactical vehicle, New York City police enter an upper floor of Hamilton Hall on the Columbi...

Using a tactical vehicle, New York City police enter an upper floor of Hamilton Hall on the Columbia University campus in New York Tuesday, April 30, 2024, after a building was taken over by protesters earlier Tuesday. Hundreds of police officers swept into Columbia University on Tuesday night to end a pro-Palestinian occupation of an administration building and sweep away a protest encampment, acting after the school’s president said there was no other way to ensure safety and restore order on campus.(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

NEW YORK (AP) — Police officers carrying zip ties and riot shields stormed a Columbia University building being occupied by pro-Palestinian protesters, streaming in through a window late Tuesday and arresting dozens of of people.

The protesters had seized the administration building, known as Hamilton Hall, more than 20 hours earlier in a major escalation as demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war spread on college campuses nationwide.

A statement released by a Columbia spokesperson said officers entered the campus after the university requested help. A tent encampment on the school’s grounds began nearly two weeks ago to protest the Israel-Hamas war.

“After the University learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded, we were left with no choice,” the school said. “The decision to reach out to the NYPD was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing. We have made it clear that the life of campus cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violate the rules and the law.”

The arrests at Columbia — where protesters had shrugged off an earlier ultimatum to abandon the encampment Monday or be suspended — unfolded as other universities stepped up efforts to end the protests.

Police swept through some campuses, leading to confrontations and more than 1,000 arrests nationwide. In rarer instances, university officials and protest leaders struck agreements to restrict the disruption to campus life and upcoming commencement ceremonies.

Columbia’s police action happened on the 56th anniversary of a similar move to quash an occupation of Hamilton Hall by students protesting racism and the Vietnam War.

The police department earlier Tuesday said officers wouldn’t enter the grounds without the college administration’s request or an imminent emergency. Now, law enforcement will be there through May 17, the end of the university’s commencement events.

READ MORE: Second day of Gaza protest on U. campus moves to Salt Lake County Jail after organizer’s arrest

Fabien Lugo, a first-year accounting student who said he was not involved in the protests, said he opposed the university’s decision to call in police.

“They’ve shut down everything. This is too intense,” he said. “It feels like more of an escalation than a de-escalation.”

Former President Donald Trump called into Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Channel to comment on Columbia’s turmoil as live footage of police clearing Hamilton Hall aired. Trump praised the officers.

“But it should never have gotten to this,” he told Hannity. “And they should have done it a lot sooner than before they took over the building because it would have been a lot easier if they were in tents rather than a building. And tremendous damage done, too.”

In a letter to senior NYPD officials, Columbia President Minouche Shafik said the administration was making the request that police remove protesters from the occupied building and a nearby tent encampment “with the utmost regret.”

Shafik also leaned into the idea, first put forward by New York City Mayor Eric Adams earlier in the day, that the group that occupied Hamilton was “led by individuals who are not affiliated with the university.”

Neither provided specific evidence to back up that contention, which was disputed by protest organizers and participants.

NYPD officials made similar claims about “outside agitators” during the huge, grassroots demonstrations against racial injustice that erupted across the city after the death of George Floyd in 2020. In some instances, top police officials falsely labeled peaceful marches organized by well-known neighborhood activists as the work of violent extremists.

Before officers arrived at Columbia, the White House condemned the standoffs there and at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, where protesters had occupied two buildings until officers with batons intervened overnight and arrested 25 people. Officials estimated the northern California campus’ total damage to be upwards of $1 million.

President Joe Biden believes students occupying an academic building is “absolutely the wrong approach,” and “not an example of peaceful protest,” said National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.

Other colleges have sought to negotiate agreements with the demonstrators in the hopes of having peaceful commencement ceremonies. As cease-fire negotiations appeared to gain steam, it wasn’t clear whether those talks would inspire an easing of protests.

The nationwide campus protests began at Columbia in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza after Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7. Militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took roughly 250 hostages. Vowing to stamp out Hamas, Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

Israel and its supporters have branded the university protests as antisemitic, while Israel’s critics say it uses those allegations to silence opposition. Although some protesters have been caught on camera making antisemitic remarks or violent threats, organizers of the protests, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and protesting the war.

On Columbia’s campus, protesters first set up a tent encampment almost two weeks ago. The school sent in police to clear the tents the following day, arresting more than 100 people, only for the students to return – and inspire a wave of similar encampments at campuses across the country.

Negotiations between the protesters and the college came to a standstill in recent days, and the school set a deadline for the activists to abandon the tent encampment Monday afternoon or be suspended.

Instead, Columbia protestors defied the ultimatum and took over Hamilton Hall early Tuesday, carrying in furniture and metal barricades. The demonstrators dubbed the building Hind’s Hall, honoring a young girl who was killed in Gaza under Israeli fire, and issued demands for divestment, financial transparency and amnesty.

The Columbia University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors said faculty’s efforts to help defuse the situation have been repeatedly ignored by the university’s administration despite school statutes that require consultation.

Ilana Lewkovitch, a self-described “leftist Zionist” student at Columbia, said it’s been hard to concentrate on school for weeks, amid calls for Zionists to die or leave campus. Her exams have been punctuated with chants of “say it loud, say it clear, we want Zionists out of here” in the background, she said.

Lewkovitch, who identifies as Jewish and studied at Columbia’s Tel Aviv campus, said she wished the current pro-Palestinian protests were more open to people like her who criticize Israel’s war policies but believe there should be an Israeli state.
___
Dazio reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists around the country contributed to this report, including Joseph B. Frederick, Jonathan Mattise, Colleen Long, Karen Matthews, Jim Vertuno, Hannah Schoenbaum, Sarah Brumfield, Christopher Weber, Carolyn Thompson, Dave Collins, Makiya Seminera, Philip Marcelo and Corey Williams.
___
This story has been corrected to show that Columbia University has not canceled its main graduation event.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Breaking News

A Unified police car crashed into a suspect's yellow car to delay him from fleeing the scene, after...

Emma Keddington

Police officer hospitalized after being hit by suspect, another officer and suspect also hospitalized

One police officer was injured after being hit by a vehicle in South Salt Lake, according to Unified Police Department.

3 days ago

Chase W. Pollock reportedly hit a white Audi at the 1300 South 2100 East in Salt Lake City. He has ...

Emma Keddington

SLPD files charges against man accused of a hit and run on Mother’s Day

The Salt Lake Police Department filed charges Thursday against 40-year-old Chase W. Pollock, in connection to a critical hit and run that happened on Mother's Day.  

4 days ago

Three people were aboard a small plane that was found in a field north of the Vernal Regional Airpo...

Simone Seikaly

Small plane crashes near Vernal Regional Airport

An FAA and NTSB investigation has begun after a small plane was found crashed in a field north of the Vernal Regional Airport on Wednesday.

5 days ago

nikki haley shown, she endorsed trump...

Sam Herrera

Nikki Haley endorses Trump for president

The endorsement comes months after Haley ended her own presidential bid in March.

5 days ago

Former U.S. President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break on the first day of his t...

Sam Herrera

Defense rests case in Trump hush money trial

The defense in the hush money trial rested its case just a day after the prosecution rested.

6 days ago

One person died after being struck by a northbound Green Line TRAX train at 1700 South....

Emma Keddington

One person dead after being hit by a TRAX train, bus bridge in place

One person has died after a TRAX incident Monday night.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Police clear pro-Palestinian protesters from Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall after occupation