update deskSchools & Higher Education

NYPD arrests more than 100 anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University

“They can expel me and I’ll stay,” said Maryam Iqbal, a suspended Barnard student. “They can put us in jail. We’ll come back again.”

Police car lights. Credit: tevenet/Pixabay.
Police car lights. Credit: tevenet/Pixabay.

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik called on the New York City Police Department to forcibly clear an unauthorized anti-Israel protest encampment on the school’s South Lawn on Thursday.

“They have interfered with the operation of the university, refused to identify themselves, refused to disperse, set up tents on campus space, failed to comply with policies and damaged campus property,” Shafik wrote in her letter requesting NYPD assistance. “With great regret, we request the NYPD’s help to remove these individuals.”

The Columbia Spectator student newspaper reported that police arrested more than 100 of the anti-Israel demonstrators for trespassing. The students, whose hands were zip-tied, were loaded into police buses.

The university also suspended at least three Barnard College students for their role in the protests, including Irsa Hirsi, the daughter of progressive “Squad” member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

One of the suspended students, Maryam Iqbal, said in a video that she thought the university was “bluffing” and said that she wouldn’t leave.

“They can expel me, and I’ll stay,” Iqbal said in the video. “They can put us in jail. We’ll come back again.”

The attempt to clear the “Gaza solidarity encampment” tents comes one day after Shafik and other university leaders testified to a House committee about Jew-hatred at Columbia.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) told Shafik that Mohamed Abdou—a visiting professor in modern Arab studies the university hired after he made a pro-Hamas social-media post—was at the unauthorized demonstration during the hearing.

“Just to let you know, Mr. Abdou is not grading papers right now. He’s on campus at the unsanctioned, anti-Israel, antisemitic event that is being supported by pro-Hamas activists on campus,” Stefanik said.

Videos posted on social media Thursday show that police cleared the tents and other debris from Columbia’s South Lawn but that hundreds of anti-Israel demonstrators continue to rally in the area.

The Columbia Jewish Alumni Association wrote on Thursday that the unauthorized protests continue to disrupt academic life at the university.

“For those unfamiliar with Columbia University campus, this mayhem is directly in front of the library and several dorms,” wrote the group, which noted that final exams begin in less than 10 days. “You don’t have to be Jewish to be deeply concerned about the academic priorities of professors who condone and encourage this.”

The Jewish alumni association also noted the irony that the students, who can expect to earn an average starting annual salary of more than $92,000 after completing their undergraduate studies have to be cleaned up after by the custodial staff.

“Privilege is when you hold a loudly disruptive, all-night hate festival in the center of campus, sleep in cozy, matching tents and when the grown-ups finally force you to leave, custodians who work hard for a living are called in to clean up your mess,” it wrote.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce which is investigating Columbia for antisemitism, issued a statement on Thursday welcoming Shafik’s decision to clear the encampment but said that the university’s administration enabled the protests by accepting Jew-hatred.

“I am glad President Shafik has taken the long overdue step of inviting the New York Police Department (NYPD) to clear this radical, unauthorized encampment,” she said.

“This brazen and hateful defiance of Columbia’s rules was the product of months of the university’s stark failure to enforce its rules and address antisemitism in a serious manner,” she said.

“For Columbia to correct course, the events of the past 36 hours must become a turning point,” she added. “Columbia must take the bold and difficult actions necessary to address the pervasive antisemitism, support for terrorism, and contempt for the university’s rules that have been allowed to flourish on its campus.”

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