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Pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University persist after 100 arrests

Tensions are escalating at Columbia University amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, with protests on campus and the university’s response drawing significant attention.

The university administration has taken the step of restricting campus access, allowing only students and staff with valid IDs to enter.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators have reoccupied the main lawn for a third consecutive day, passionately advocating for a Gaza cease-fire and urging the university to divest from Israel. Their presence, marked by chanting and banners, underscores the intensity of their demands.

The New York Police Department (NYPD) made headlines by arresting over 100 individuals at the encampment on Thursday, as protests both on and off campus continued unabated.

Despite the confrontational atmosphere, one student remarked on the community spirit demonstrated during the protests, where food was shared and interactions were peaceful.

Throughout Thursday, police closely monitored activities near campus, making initial arrests before moving in to dismantle the makeshift tent city. The scene, described by students, portrayed a stark picture of escalation and disappointment.

Criticism of the university’s handling of the situation was voiced by pro-Palestinian protester Jin Hookky, who lamented the lack of protection for peaceful demonstrators.

Following the arrests, detained students were transported to the precinct, with most receiving summonses for trespassing.

Mayor Eric Adams condemned any form of harassment or hate speech during the protests, emphasizing the importance of peaceful expression.

The tensions boiled over into violent confrontations at the university’s main entrance, resulting in further arrests as clashes with counter-protesters ensued.

University President Minouche Shafik’s decision to request NYPD intervention highlighted the severity of the disruptions to campus operations, ultimately leading to the suspension of all students involved in the encampment.

Barnard College’s suspension of three students, including Isra Hirsi, added another layer of complexity to the situation, as those involved in the protests vowed to continue until their demands were met.

The protests, which began before the campus lockdown amid clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel groups, gained momentum following Shafik’s congressional testimony regarding campus antisemitism, raising concerns about freedom of expression.

While acknowledging the challenges of reconciling free speech rights with ensuring a discrimination-free environment, some students emphasized the importance of addressing concerns about antisemitism seriously.

Pro-Palestinian protester Jin Hookky clarified that the demonstrators’ opposition was directed towards the actions of the Israeli government, rather than Jewish individuals as a whole.

The NYPD’s commitment to collaborate with the university to enforce campus regulations for the remainder of the semester underscored the ongoing efforts to maintain order amidst the ongoing tensions.

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