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  4. US: Police enter Columbia University to arrest pro-Palestinian protesters after they occupy building | VIDEO

US: Police enter Columbia University to arrest pro-Palestinian protesters after they occupy building | VIDEO

The Columbia University, the flashpoint of pro-Palestinian protests across US schools, has threatened to expel students after a two-week standoff with administrators escalated. The protesters have occupied the Hamilton Hall and have refused to abandon a tent encampment in support of Palestinians.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Updated on: May 01, 2024 7:59 IST
Columbia University, pro-Palestinian protesters, police
Image Source : REUTERS Police detain a protester on the campus of Columbia University amid pro-Palestinian protests.

New York: Amid widespread pro-Palestinian protests across several prestigious US universities, New York City police officials entered the grounds of Columbia University on Tuesday night (local time) in an attempt to disperse the protesters who have occupied Hamilton Hill and have refused to leave. Live television images in the US showed police entering the campus in upper Manhattan, which has become the epicentre of anti-Israel protests that have spread to other schools.

The images also showed police arresting some pro-Palestinian protesters, similar to protests in other universities. "We’re clearing it out" police in a riot unit yelled as they marched up to the barricaded entrance to the building, while dozens more police marched to the protest encampment. “Shame! shame!” jeered many on-looking undergrads still outside on campus.

A long line of police officers were seen climbing into the building through a second-story window, using a vehicle with a ladder to gain access to the upper floor. After some time, officers were seen leading handcuffed protesters to police vehicles outside campus gates.

Police boarded about 50 detainees onto a bus, each of them with their hands bound behind their backs by zip ties, the entire scene illuminated with flashing red and blue lights of police vehicles, amid chants of "Free, free, free Palestine!" and "Let the students go!"

The siege of Hamilton Hall

This came after Columbia University officials earlier on Tuesday threatened academic expulsion of the students who seized Hamilton Hall. The occupation began overnight when protesters broke windows, stormed inside and unfurled a banner reading "Hind's Hall," symbolically renaming the building for a 6-year-old Palestinian child killed in Gaza by the Israeli military.

Outside the eight-story, neo-classical building, which has been the site of various student occupations on the campus dating back to the 1960s, protesters blocked the entrance with tables, linked arms to form a barricade and chanted pro-Palestinian slogans. Mayor Eric Adams and city police officials said the Hamilton Hall takeover was instigated by "outside agitators" who lack any affiliation with Columbia and are known to law enforcement for provoking lawlessness.

"We cannot and will not allow what should be a peaceful gathering to turn into a violent spectacle that serves no purpose. We cannot wait until this situation becomes even more serious. This must end now," the mayor said. One of the student leaders of the protest, Mahmoud Khalil, a Palestinian scholar attending Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs on a student visa, disputed assertions that outsiders had initiated the occupation.

India Tv - Columbia university, protests, police

Image Source : REUTERSHeavy police presence outside Columbia University amid pro-Palestinian protesters.

New York Police Department officials had stressed before Tuesday night's sweep that officers would refrain from entering the campus unless Columbia administrators invited their presence, as they did on April 18, when NYPD officers removed an earlier encampment. Similar encampments have been set up across many universities in solidarity with Palestinians in the nearly seven-month-long war in Gaza.

Protests swell across US universities

The October 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants from Gaza, where 1,200 people were killed, initiated the deadly war in Gaza, and the ensuing Israeli offensive on the Palestinian enclave has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians. The war has unleashed the biggest outpouring of student activism since the anti-racism protests of 2020.

Many of the demonstrations have been met with counter-protesters accusing them of fomenting anti-Jewish hatred. The pro-Palestinian side, including Jews opposed to Israeli actions in Gaza, say they are being unfairly branded as antisemitic for criticising Israel's government and expressing support for human rights. In dealing with the protests, university officials have struggled to strike a balance between allowing freedom of expression and stamping out hate speech.

India Tv - Columbia University, pro-Palestinian protesters, police

Image Source : REUTERSPolice using a special vehicle to enter the besieged Hamilton Hall in Columbia University.

Columbia University on Monday began suspending pro-Palestinian protesters who have refused to remove tent encampments in its New York City campus days after the school declared a stalemate in talks that seek an end to the polarising protest in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war. University President Nemat Minouche Shafik said days of negotiations between student organisers and academic leaders had failed to make a breakthrough in removing the tents.

At the University of Texas at Austin, an attorney said at least 40 demonstrators had been arrested on Monday on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct, some of them dragged by officers in riot gear who encircled about 100 sitting protesters. Another group of demonstrators trapped police and a van full of arrestees between buildings, creating a mass of bodies pushing and shoving and prompting the officers to use pepper spray and flash-bang devices to clear the crowd.

The protests have even spread to Europe, with French police removing dozens of students from the Sorbonne university after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the main courtyard. In Canada, student protest camps have popped up at the University of Ottawa, McGill University in Montreal and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, according to The Canadian Press.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Columbia University threatens to suspend pro-Palestinian protesters who occupy building, smash windows

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