Updated Apr 30, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Columbia protesters "face expulsion" if they don't leave occupied campus building

Demonstrators from the pro-Palestine encampment on Columbia's campus show a banner as they barricade themselves inside Hamilton Hall on April 30. Photo: Alex Kent/Getty Images

Columbia University warned protesters who breached an administrative building Tuesday that they would face expulsion as tensions over pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campus continue to escalate.

The big picture: Dozens of protesters barricaded entrances of a building on the Ivy League campus in Manhattan in the middle of the night after the university began suspending students for refusing to leave their on-campus encampment after school leadership imposed a deadline.

What they're saying: "We regret that protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions," the university said in a letter to students, warning that those who occupy the building face expulsion.

  • "This is about responding to the actions of the protesters, not their cause," the note states.

Zoom out: The White House on Tuesday denounced the students' takeover of the campus building, saying, "Forcibly taking over buildings is not peaceful — it is wrong."

  • White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement that "President Biden respects the right to free expression, but protests must be peaceful and lawful."

State of play: Columbia has been the epicenter of nationwide college protests over the Israel-Hamas war.

The latest: There was a growing police presence outside Columbia on Tuesday evening, with trucks carrying barricades arriving in the area, NBC News reports.

  • New York City Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban said during a briefing Tuesday that "professional, external actors" are involved in escalating the campus protests, including in the occupation of the university building.
  • Caban said the department is ready to assist the university if requested.
  • "What should have been a peaceful protest ... has basically been co-opted by professional outside agitators," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said.

Those inside Hamilton Hall will be charged with burglary in the third degree, criminal mischief and trespassing, officials said during the briefing.

Go deeper: What pro-Palestinian protesters on college campuses want

Editor's note: This story has been updated with statements from the White House, New York City police commissioner and mayor.

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