Police clear pro-Palestine protesters from Columbia University's Hamilton Hall

Dozens arrested after New York police entered university building following letter seeking help from university president Nehmat Shafik

Police storm Columbia University hall and arrest dozens of pro-Palestinian students

Police storm Columbia University hall and arrest dozens of pro-Palestinian students
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New York police entered Columbia University grounds late on Tuesday to clear a pro-Palestine student group that had occupied an academic building.

News footage showed dozens of officers entering Hamilton Hall via a ladder that was extended from the roof of a police vehicle.

The protesters entered the building earlier in the day in a major escalation after two weeks of protests at the university. These demonstrations sparked similar protests at other college campuses in the US and abroad over Israel's war in Gaza.

Dozens of protesters were removed from the building and taken away in buses.

It was the second time the prestigious university had requested police assistance in responding to student protests on campus.

“We made the decision … that this was a law enforcement matter, and that the NYPD were best positioned to determine and execute an appropriate response,” a university spokesman said.

A letter from Columbia University President Nemat Shafik showed that she requested NYPD presence on campus until May 17, two days after commencement is scheduled to take place.

Weeks ago, scores of students formed an encampment on a campus lawn to demand that the school divest from finances and academic institutions connected to Israel's actions in Gaza and other occupied Palestinian territories.

A small group of protesters early on Tuesday entered and occupied Hamilton Hall, hours after negotiations between faculty and demonstrators failed. The group barricaded doors of the building with furniture and tables.

Palestinian flags and signs saying “intifada” were hung from windows of the building.

The White House earlier on Tuesday said that President Joe Biden believed “forcibly taking over a building on campus is absolutely the wrong approach”.

“We regret that protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions,” Columbia's spokesman Ben Chang said earlier.

Before Tuesday's police action, Columbia faculty and students posted screenshots of a “shelter in place” order sent by the school, warning that there would be disciplinary action if people left their spaces in the Morningside campus.

Reporters with campus radio station WKCR said some people were also standing in front of Hamilton Hall.

“We believe that the group that broke into and occupied the building is led by individuals who are not affiliated with the University,” the school claimed, repeating a statement that NYPD also said in an earlier presser.

More than 100 people were arrested in the university-ordered police clearing of the first encampment on April 18.

“The decision to reach out to the NYPD was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing,” the Columbia spokesman also said.

“We have made it clear that the life of campus cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violate the rules and the law.”

Updated: May 01, 2024, 7:02 AM