NYPD

Hundreds of NYPD officers stormed the campus of Columbia University to take back control of a building seized by pro-Palestine protesters.

Dozens of student protesters are thought to have been detained after police were seen entering an upper storey of Hamilton Hall — renamed Hind Hall by protesters in memory of a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed in Gaza in January.

The protests at the New York university have been going on for weeks, sparking similar demonstrations at some 50 campuses across the country.

NYPD
NYPD

On Tuesday evening authorities at Columbia said they had no choice but to bring police in, saying Hamilton Hall “had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded”.

Shortly before 11pm est, the NYPD said the building had been cleared and that about 100 people had been arrested. They also said there had been no one resisting arrest and that there had not been any injuries.

Police had shut down several city blocks ahead of the raid as hundreds of officers gathered outside the campus, many of them carrying zip ties.

Arrests began shortly after 9pm. Detained protesters were led away from the campus down Amsterdam Avenue to waiting police buses, some of them carried by officers.

The NYPD denied that officers used tear gas on demonstrators, saying that false reports had been ciculated online. Officers may use flashbang grenades “to deflect or surprise” protesters, CNN reported.

However, the Washington Post reported that some officers entered Hamilton Hall with their guns drawn.

NYPD officers use a tactical ramp to break into Hamilton Hall, which had been renamed Hind Hall by protesters occupying the building (EPA)

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who had visited protesters at Columbia last week, tweeted a warning as the police action got under way.

She wrote: “If any kid is hurt tonight, responsibility will fall on the mayor and univ presidents. Other leaders and schools have found a safe, de-escalatory path. This is the opposite of leadership and endangers public safety. A nightmare in the making. I urge the Mayor to reverse course.”

Students shouted “Shame on you” as police officers detained protesters.

Police on the scene. Columbia has been taken over by protests for weeks (REUTERS)

A statement issued by the university as the police action was under way read in part: “A little after 9 p.m. this evening, the NYPD arrived on campus at the University’s request. This decision was made to restore safety and order to our community.

“We regret that protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions. After the University learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded, we were left with no choice. Columbia public safety personnel were forced out of the building, and a member of our facilities team was threatened. We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation.”

The NYPD said there had been about 100 arrests and said no one had been injured during its operation (EPA)

The statement added: “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.”

Earlier the Mayor of New York, Eric Adams – himself a former police officer – said urged the Columbia protesters to “walk away” and advised them to “continue your advocacy through other means”, adding: “This must end now.”

It was reported that the president of Columbia, Minouche Shafik, had requested a police presence on the campus until 17 May, two days after graduation.

Columbia protesters detained by police as NYPD move to clear campus

Earlier on Tuesday, the White House condemned Columbia University students who took over Hamilton Hall in protest over the war in Gaza, as protesters warned college leaders they would have “blood on their hands” if they tried to forcibly remove them.

“The president believes that forcibly taking over a building on campus is absolutely the wrong approach,” John Kirby, National Security Council spokesman, said.

He added that president Joe Biden believed the occupation was “not an example of peaceful protest.”

His comments come less than a week after the Biden administration signed a bill to send $26.4bn to Israel to support its ongoing war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children. Over 100 Columbia students were arrested two weeks ago during peaceful protests at the campus.

There were no initial reports of people resisting arrest (AP)

Students broke into Hamilton Hall in the early hours of Tuesday morning, unfurling banners from the windows and barricading the doors. The hall has symbolic value to the protesters: it was one of several buildings on campus that were occupied during a 1968 civil rights and anti-Vietnam War demonstration on campus.

The Columbia protests – designed to pressure university authorities to divest from Israeli investments – have sparked protests on campuses around the country. More than 1,000 people have been arrested.



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