Updated May 1, 2024 - Politics & Policy

NYPD arrests nearly 300 pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia, City College of New York

NYPD officers arrest students at Columbia University in New York City on Tuesday. Photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

New York police confirmed that they arrested 282 pro-Palestinian protesters at Columbia University and the City College of New York Tuesday night and made further arrests at Fordham University Wednesday.

Why it matters: The large police operation represented the biggest escalation yet in the Ivy League school's response to the demonstrations, which have served as the epicenter of the nationwide campus movement supporting Palestinians.

The latest: NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations, Kaz Daughtry, said in a post to X that officers had "placed the individuals who refused to disperse from the unlawful encampment" inside a Fordham building under arrest.

  • New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference Wednesday that the effort to breach and barricade the building on Columbia's campus included students but "it was led by individuals who are not affiliated with the university."
  • Among the 282 demonstrators arrested, 109 were from Columbia and 173 were from CCNY, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said at the press conference.
  • Police are still working to determine how many of those arrested at both schools were students, Chell added.

Zoom in: Police entered Columbia's campus around 9pm local time Tuesday, and ordered protesters and journalists to disperse and leave the grounds near Hamilton Hall, where protesters had barricaded themselves, according to CNN.

  • Columbia has begun suspending students who refused to leave the encampment on campus and has threatened students who occupied Hamilton Hall with expulsion.
  • CCNY on Tuesday announced that it was moving all classes online until further notice amid the protests on its campus.

State of play: Police took protesters into custody and loaded them onto buses, according to multiple media outlets. The NYPD did not immediately respond to Axios' request for details.

  • The encampment has also been removed, the New York Times reported.
  • Though there were reports of tear gas used against protesters as the NYPD entered Hamilton Hall, Carlos Nieve, the NYPD Assistant Commissioner of Public Information denied it. "The NYPD does not use tear gas," he told reporters gathered outside the campus.
  • Some Columbia faculty condemned the heavy police presence, saying their attempts to intervene to diffuse the situation were rebuffed by campus administration.

What they're saying: "The events on campus last night have left us no choice," university president Minouche Shafik wrote in a letter to the NYPD on Tuesday.

  • "With the support of the University's Trustees, I have determined that the building occupation, the encampments, and related disruptions pose a clear and present danger … and require the use of emergency authority to protect persons and property."
  • Shafik also requested that police retain a presence on campus through May 17, which is two days after the university's scheduled commencement.
  • "We regret that protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions," a separate statement from the university said. "We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation."

What's next: Columbia plans to host its commencement, Shafik said in a statement on Wednesday, in which she doubled down on her decision to call in the NYPD.

  • "I hope Columbia can lead the way in new thinking that will make us the epicenter, not just of protests, but of solutions to the world's problems," she wrote.
 NYPD officers in riot gear break into a building at Columbia University, where pro-Palestinian students are barricaded inside a building and have set up an encampment, in New York City on April 30, 2024. (Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images)
NYPD officers in riot gear on Tuesday break into a building at Columbia University, where pro-Palestinian demonstrators are barricaded. Photo: Kena Betancur/AFP via Getty Images

Catch up quick: Pro-Palestinian protests across the country have forced campus administrators to balance students' First Amendment rights with the need to protect some Jewish students who say the demonstrations make them feel unsafe.

  • That's led to mass arrests at Columbia and the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Mass police action was also seen at UCLA early Wednesday morning, after "multiple acts of violence" reportedly took place at the campus' pro-Palestinian encampment.
  • Other universities such as Wesleyan and the University of Chicago have sought to set ground rules allowing protesters to demonstrate without disrupting campus activities.

Brown University reached an agreement with demonstrators to end their encampment through the end of the school year, allowing commencement to take place.

Go deeper: Hundreds of protesters arrested at college campuses across the U.S.

Axios' Tory Lysik contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional developments from the police operation.

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