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NYPD Represses Columbia Students, Sets Up A Multi-Week Occupation of Campus

After a weeks-long stand-off between Columbia University student protesters and the administration, the university president has called the NYPD back on-to campus and asked them to stay for the rest of the semester.

Eleanor Volkova

May 1, 2024
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A stream of cops in riot gear pour into Columbia University,
Photo Credit: Bing Guan for The New York Times

An army of cops in riot gear descended on Columbia University to break up the student protests. The cops were called in by the Columbia administration to retake Hamilton Hall after protesters began an occupation last night and to sweep the Gaza Solidarity Encampment for the second time. Prior to the NYPD invasion, students received a “shelter-in-place” order where they were informed that if they left where they were they would be subject to arrest. This order came after a day where the campus was locked down to all but students who lived on campus and essential employees, blocking the type of solidarity showing that was seen last week when 1000 students mobilized on the lawn ahead of a potential NYPD raid on the encampment. According to student journalists at WKCR, journalists were also not allowed to witness what the police were doing at Hamilton Hall so it is yet to be known what level of brutality was unleashed upon these students. WKCR also reported seeing someone lying unconscious on the ground after the sweep began and that students were barricaded into the dorms. Over an hour after the sweep, students were still not allowed to exit the buildings they were in, per WKCR. 

This attack on students marked the second time in as many weeks that the NYPD were called onto campus by Columbia administration. As Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine point out, this latest round of repression also comes on the anniversary of when police were called in to repress a student occupation of the university in 1968. While the raid at Columbia was underway, the NYPD was also attacking a protest outside the City College Gaza Solidarity Encampment only around 20 blocks up the street.

Columbia University president Minouche Shafik has requested police presence on campus until May 17, after commencement and graduation. So, for as long as students remain on campus this semester there will be NYPD officers. This represents nothing less than a militarization of the campus in response to student protests. It is intended to keep protests from continuing and act as a barrier to all future student organizing. 

Shafik was given cover to unleash this new wave of repression through the use of the mirage of “professional agitators” allegedly responsible for the occupation of Hamilton Hall. This argument was spread by the media throughout the day and was cited by the Mayor and Police Commissioner. This rhetorical framing is reminiscent of smears used during BLM to discredit protests and serves to separate the student protesters from the rest of the student body. 

The attack on students at Columbia is an attack on the right to protest. That police can now occupy campuses for weeks is a sign of the authoritarian methods being employed to crush the movement against the genocide and which will be used to crush struggles in the future. We must fight this back with our full force and demand that all charges be dropped, all suspensions revoked, and that the cops be barred from campus. 
Now more than ever, in the face of immense repression from the universities and the state, we need to defend ourselves with one fist. We need the unity of the student movement with the labor movement to fight for Palestine and to defend our right to protest. Let’s mobilize this May Day in solidarity with the Columbia students, the brave student movement nationwide facing repression, and for a Free Palestine.

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