Nearly 300 protesters from Columbia, City College of NY arrested; demonstration at NYPD headquarters

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, May 1, 2024
Pro-Palestinian demonstration at Columbia ended in dramatic fashion
The pro-Palestinian demonstration that paralyzed Columbia University ended in dramatic fashion, with police carrying riot shields bursting into a building that protesters took over the previous night and making dozens of arrests.

NEW YORK -- Nearly 300 people were arrested at Columbia University and The City College of New York Tuesday night, Mayor Eric Adams said.

In a press conference Wednesday morning, he blamed "outside agitators" for "training and co-opting" and otherwise peaceful protest to turn it into something potentially violent.

"You don't have to be the majority to influence and co-opt," Adams said. "There is a movement to radicalize young people."

The mayor said those who occupied Hamilton Hall at the private university were led by people who are unaffiliated with Columbia University.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism, Rebecca Weiner, said individuals associated with a change to more aggressive tactics were spotted at Columbia and represented an "elevated concern."

"The situation had deteriorated to the point where the safety of students, staff and the public was at risk," Police Commissioner Edward Caban said.

There were 282 arrests on a range of mainly minor offenses, 173 at City College and 119 at Columbia. Charges ranged from trespassing, to criminal mischief to burglary.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry spoke with WABC's Mornings @ 10 team about the protests and arrests

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry talks with the Mornings @ 10 team about the protests.

"It was a tough decision," Adams said of the university's decision to authorize the NYPD movement onto campus. "The action had to end and we brought it to a peaceful conclusion."

"There's nothing peaceful about destroying property, dismantling security cameras. There's no place for acts of hate in our city, that's from antisemitism to islamophobia," Adams said. "We should never have had to get here in the first place. We must push back on all attempts to radicalize our young people in this city."

NYPD officials said that a vast majority of the arrests resulted in no injuries.

Ahead of Wednesday's press conference, people gathered outside police headquarters as those hundreds of arrested protesters were processed inside. Each time someone was released from police custody, protesters yelled in support of them.

One person was allegedly put on a stretcher and into an ambulance when they were released.

How events unfolded on Tuesday night

As officers moved in and arrested demonstrators at Columbia University Tuesday night, police also faced intense, ongoing protests at City College.

Eyewitness News was live at the scene as college students and others protested the NYPD's closing of the Hamilton Heights campus.

Phil Taitt reports from Lower Manhattan.

CUNY said that a large crowd of demonstrators marched from Columbia University to the City College campus. As the crowd grew in size, CUNY says they made the decision to request NYPD assistance, and the number of arrests grew.

"Students have a right to demonstrate peacefully and exercise their First Amendment rights," CUNY said in a statement. "Tonight's actions were taken in response to specific and repeated acts of violence and vandalism, not in response to peaceful protest. CUNY will continue working to keep our community free from violence, intimidation and harassment."

Protesters at one of the college's entrance gates were seen igniting flares, illuminating the area in bright red as the anger grew in response to the police clearing out an encampment that had been there for days and then closing the school's campus.

Authorities said people could leave but would not be allowed back on campus. WABC Eyewitness News reporter Sonia Rincon saw some students on campus but most were outside.

In an emergency message to the college community, City College President Vince Boudreau announced as of May 1, all campus operations would be online until further notice.

"Given the situation, we are moving all Wednesday classes and work to remote, remaining remote until conditions permit a return to normal business operations. We are also urging all members of our community to stay away from campus," Boudreau said.

Meanwhile, police used barricades to close not just campus entrances, but also the streets that led to them.

Earlier Tuesday evening, video shared with Eyewitness News showed police putting up barricades to close the campus and arresting students who tried to push through the barriers.

The NYPD played recorded warnings that they would be arrested. This caused some very tense moments as protesters hurled anti-police chants mixed with pro-Palestinian chants.

WATCH | NYPD officers clash with protesters near City College

Sonia Rincon has the latest details on the ongoing protests at City College.

One faculty member at another CUNY campus said he just doesn't want to see students arrested for protesting on their own campus, where they should be safe to do that.

"I visited the encampment, I talked to people there. I saw students who are deeply concerned and indignant against what's happening against the people of Gaza and I saw the NYPD seal off the entrance and extremely aggressively push people out," said Sandor John, a faculty member at Hunter College.

In his message, Boudreau noted that some demonstrators may not be affiliated with CCNY, saying, "This is not primarily a CCNY demonstration, and perhaps not primarily a CUNY demonstration. The significant inclusion of unaffiliated external individuals means that we don't have established connections to them."

The last day of classes for students is May 15.