Video footage circulated on social media on Wednesday shows a group of Jewish students, including two men wearing kippahs, locked in a library at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in Lower Manhattan.
Outside the library, protesters screaming “Free Palestine” pound on the door.
“In America, we all should have the freedom to be who we are and worship as we please, without fear of intimidation and harassment and violence. Where there is fear, there can never be freedom,” wrote Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.). “Shame on Cooper Union for failing to protect the freedom of its Jewish students from a dangerous mob.”
“We are horrified by video showing that Jewish Cooper Union students were trapped in the school library as an anti-Israel mob barricaded the exits,” wrote the American Jewish Committee. “This was an incredibly dangerous situation with a real risk of violence. Universities must act now to protect Jewish student safety.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the intimidation of the Jewish students “appalling.”
‘NYPD on the scene’
New York City Mayor Eric Adams wrote that he had been in touch with the leadership of the college and with the New York City Police Department.
“The NYPD was present on the scene and was coordinating with school security during the entire event, ensuring no one was injured,” he wrote.
“State officials are in close communication with local law enforcement regarding protests on the Cooper Union campus tonight,” wrote New York Gov. Kathy Hochul. “Antisemitism and all forms of hate and intimidation are unacceptable and have no place in New York State.”
Kim Newman, media-relations manager at Cooper Union, told JNS that the school’s library was “closed for approximately 20 minutes late this afternoon while student protesters moved through our building.
“Some students, who were previously in the library, remained during this time. They were accompanied by library staff and chose to stay in the library until the protest was over,” she added. “All students, including those who participated in the protest, dispersed by 5:30 p.m.
“Additionally, to clarify some erroneous reports, NYPD was onsite throughout the day,” Newman said.
Joel Petlin, superintendent of the Kiryas Joel School District, north of New York City, shared another video of two students, one wearing a kippah, seated at a table as protesters bang on an adjacent glass window.
StandWithUs wrote that its sources indicated students had to “lock down” in the library for 40 minutes.
“When students called the police, they were told that they couldn’t intervene. Students are now safe after they were able to sneak out of the library through the back door,” StandWithUs added. “This is just one incident that is reflective of the rise in antisemitism following the Hamas massacre of Oct. 7.”
The nearly 165-year-old private school, which used to have free tuition, is one of the most respected and most selective colleges in the United States. In recent years, Cooper Union has offered all students partial rather than full scholarships.
Its founder, a devout Christian, said, “Neither my own religious opinions nor the religious opinions of any sect or party whatever shall ever be made a test or requirement, in any manner or form, of or for admission to or continuance to enjoy the benefit of this institution.”