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Protests Intensify at Columbia, Forcing Difficult Choices for Leaders Sharon Otterman and Alan Blinder

NY Times, Apr. 18, 2024

“Columbia’s tightened rules were being tested even as Dr. Shafik testified.”
 
More than 100 students were arrested on Thursday after Columbia University called in the police to empty an encampment of pro-Palestinian demonstrators, fulfilling a vow to Congress by the school’s president that she was prepared to punish people for unauthorized protests.
“I took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances,” the president, Nemat Shafik, wrote in a campuswide email on Thursday afternoon.
The president’s decision swiftly sharpened tensions on campus, which has been battered for months by boisterous pro-Palestinian demonstrations that many Jewish people regarded as antisemitic. And it stood to become a milestone for the country, as campuses have been torn by the Israel-Hamas war and grappled with how to manage protests.
What was far less clear was whether the harsher tactics would form an updated playbook for officials struggling to calm restive campuses, or do little besides infuriate and inflame.
Protesters had already promised that any effort to dismantle the encampment would only embolden them.
Dr. Shafik’s message arrived as swarms of New York City police officers, clad in riot gear and bearing zip ties, marched on the encampment of about 50 tents that had sprung up earlier in the week. On Thursday, protesters clutched Palestinian flags, demonstrators sat huddled on the ground and a thicket of onlookers kept watch as officers bore down on tents in the zone that had styled itself as the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”
“Since you have refused to disperse, you will now be placed under arrest for trespassing,” a man repeatedly called through a loudspeaker. The protesters responded with their own repeated cry: “Columbia, Columbia, you will see — Palestine will be free!”
Mayor Eric Adams said on Thursday evening that while Columbia has a “proud history of protest,” students did not “have a right to violate university policies and disrupt learning.”
Less than an hour later, at least two buses were filled with arrested protesters, while other demonstrators thundered their displeasure toward officers. Among those arrested, according to police, was Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat from Minnesota. Ms. Hirsi was issued a summons for trespassing.
“They can threaten us all they want with the police, but at the end of the day, it’s only going to lead to more mobilization,” Maryam Alwan, a senior and pro-Palestinian organizer on campus, had said before the arrests. … [To read the full article, click here]

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