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Police Carry Out Raid, Arrest Pro-Palestinian Students In Columbia University

Police use a vehicle named "the bear" to enter Hamilton Hall from a public street, which was occupied by protesters, as other officers enter the campus of Columbia University, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

Protests in Columbia University show no signs of quietening down as the New York Police Department (NYPD) charged into the campus on Tuesday night to remove pro-Palestinian protesters. The protesters had taken over a university campus building called Hamilton Hall on early Monday morning.

New York City police officers entered the grounds of Columbia University on Tuesday night to arrest and disperse pro-Palestinian protesters who took over a campus building nearly 24 hours earlier and have occupied a tent camp at the Ivy League school for nearly two weeks.

Television images at the start of the raid around 9 p.m. ET showed throngs of helmeted police marching onto the elite campus in upper Manhattan, a focal point of student rallies that have spread to dozens of schools across the U.S. in recent days expressing opposition to Israel’s war in Gaza. Soon after, a long line of officers climbed into Hamilton Hall, an academic building that protesters had broken into and occupied in the early morning hours of Tuesday. Police entered through a second-story window, using a police vehicle equipped with a ladder.

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik had in a letter, said that she had written to the NYPD on Tuesday, requesting that they retain a presence on campus until mid-May. “With the utmost regret, we request the NYPD’s help to clear all individuals from Hamilton Hall and all campus encampments. In light of the activities that occurred after the events of April 17-18, 2024, we further request that you retain a presence on campus through at least May 17, 2024 to maintain order and ensure encampments are not reestablished.”

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Shafik was talking about the student encampments by pro-Palestinian protesters. She had faced questioning by the US House of Representatives on April 17 after which the encampments had come up the same day. She had again called in the police at the time to remove encampments, after which 100 student protesters had been arrested. She has faced severe criticism from the Columbia administration and the university student body for her actions.

The protests at Columbia and other US universities represent the wider divide within the country over what is happening in Gaza. The White House released a statement on Sunday, which said. “While every American has the right to peaceful protest, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous,” the statement read. However, others believe such an action by the university president is taking things too far. Tweeting about the incident on X, US Congressman Jamaal Bowman said. “These are students. In no world should our kids be met with guns when using their constitutional right to peacefully assemble.”

(With inputs from Reuters)