100 arrested at Columbia University after pro-Palestinian riot

100 arrested at Columbia University after pro-Palestinian riot

NEW YORK — Some 100 students were arrested after police cleared a camp of pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University in New York.

The university’s president said that the “extraordinary step” came after multiple warnings and was necessary to provide a safe environment.

Among the participants in the protest was Minnesota politician Ilhan Omar’s daughter, who has been suspended.

Protests have rocked US campuses since the Israel-Gaza war began last year.

100 arrested at Columbia University after pro-Palestinian riot

Demonstrators constructed an encampment of about 50 tents on campus on Wednesday – and overnight hundreds of students and others rallied with them.

More than 100 had occupied the lawns for over 30 hours, in violation of university rules, New York Mayor Eric Adams told a news conference on Thursday.

The demonstrators were joined by independent presidential candidate Cornel West.

In a statement sent to faculty earlier on Thursday, Columbia University president Dr Nemat Shafik said she had hoped her decision to authorise the New York Police Department to clear the encampment would “never be necessary”.

“The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies,” Dr Shafik said. “Through direct conversations and in writing, the university provided multiple notices of these violations.”

100 arrested at Columbia University after pro-Palestinian riot

Ilhan Omar’s daughter, Isra Hirsi, 21, said she had been suspended from Barnard College

Shafik said she regretted that “all of these attempts to resolve the situation were rejected by the students involved”.

In total, 108 people were arrested at the protest site, most of whom were given summonses for trespassing. After the site was cleared, protests continued for the rest of the day and into the night, according to local reports.

Police had intervened in protests around the university on Wednesday, as Dr Shafik testified about antisemitism before Congress.

The Columbia Spectator, a student newspaper, reported that the swoop by officers marked the first time mass arrests had been made on campus since Vietnam War protests in 1968.

100 arrested at Columbia University after pro-Palestinian riot

On X, formerly Twitter, Ilhan Omar’s daughter, Isra Hirsi, 21, said she had been suspended from Barnard College for “standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide”.

Ms Hirsi said she never previously been reprimanded or disciplined in the three years she has been a student at the private women’s college, which is next to and affiliated with Columbia.

Her mother is among the most vocal critics of Israel on Capitol Hill. In 2019 the congresswoman apologised after tweeting that US support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins baby”, a slang term for $100 bills, a post that drew accusations of antisemitism.

One of the organizations behind the protest, Columbia University Apartheid Divest, said that the suspension of Hirsi and the two other students – identified as Maryam Iqbal and Soph Dinu – meant that “they have lost access to their food, housing, and medical center.”

“Two of the three live in student housing and have been illegally locked out with no notice,” the statement added, noting that the suspension was effective immediately.

Barnard College told the BBC that it does “not provide information about confidential student conduct proceedings.”

‘Subject to sanctions’

A separate Barnard community update sent out on Thursday said only that staff members had asked students to leave and warned them they would be “subject to sanctions” if they failed to do so.

Written warnings were also provided on Wednesday evening, warning of interim suspensions if they did not leave the encampment later the same night.

“This morning… we started to place identified Barnard students remaining in the encampment on interim suspension, and we will continue to do so,” the statement added.

Barnard’s Student Government Association said in a statement that the suspensions were “illegitimate” and a violation of “the sanctity of the academic institution and its purpose to facilitate open dialogue”.

At least one professor – classics lecturer Joseph Howley – has publicly expressed support for the protest.

He told the Spectator: “I wish the last few months had left me with greater confidence that the University’s response today was about how the students were protesting rather than what they were protesting.”

The protest at Columbia came just days after pro-Palestinian protesters blocked major roads across the country, restricting access to airports including Chicago’s O’Hare International and Seattle-Tacoma International, as well as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Brooklyn Bridge in New York.