Columbia threatens to evict student protesters occupying campus building

NEW YORK (AP) — Columbia University promised to evict protesters occupying a building on the grounds of the New York college on Tuesday, as universities across the country intensified campus protests. Israel-Hamas war.

In less than two weeks, more than 1,000 protesters have been arrested on campuses in states including Texas, Utah, Virginia, North Carolina, New Mexico, Connecticut, Louisiana, California and New Jersey.

A pro-Palestinian protester shouts “Free Palestine” as he is handcuffed by University of Texas at Austin police on campus, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Austin, Texas. (Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

The White House condemned the clashes at Columbia and California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, where protesters occupied two buildings and authorities intervened overnight, arresting 25 people. Officials estimate total damage to the Northern California campus at more than $1 million.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden called the students' occupation of the academic building “absolutely the wrong approach” and “not an example of peaceful protest.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Tuesday that the Columbia protests were “co-opted by agitators outside the industry.” The mayor did not provide specific evidence to support that contention, which was disputed by protest organizers and participants.

“Now step away from this situation and pursue your argument in other ways,” Adams advised the protesters. “This has to end now.”

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Other colleges tried to negotiate deals with the protesters in hopes of holding peaceful commencement ceremonies. as Armistice negotiations Appearing to gain steam, it was unclear whether the talks would prompt an easing of protests.

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Northwestern University scored a rare victory when officials said it reached a compromise with students and faculty representing the majority of protesters on its campus near Chicago to allow peaceful demonstrations at the end of spring classes.

After Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7, nationwide campus protests began in Colombia in response to Israel's attack on Gaza. Militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 250 hostages. Israel, which has vowed to eradicate Hamas, has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

Israel and its supporters have labeled the university protests as anti-Semitic, while Israel's critics say the accusations are used to silence dissent. Although some protesters were caught on camera making anti-Semitic comments or threatening violence, organizers of the protest, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and opposing the war.

Pro-Palestinian protesters continue to occupy the grounds of the University of California, Los Angeles in front of Royce Hall, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Los Angeles.  Security has cordoned off the camp after clashes broke out on Sunday between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel protesters.  (Orange County Register via David Crane/AP)

Pro-Palestinian protesters continue to occupy the grounds of the University of California, Los Angeles in front of Royce Hall, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Orange County Register via David Crane/AP)

On Columbia's campus, protesters locked arms early Tuesday and moved furniture and metal barricades to Hamilton Hall, among several buildings. were occupied 1968 During the Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests. Demonstrators called the building Hinds Hall in honor of a young woman killed by Israeli fire in Gaza.

Despite the chaos overnight, NYPD brass said officers will not enter Columbia's campus without a request from college administration or an immediate emergency.

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The protesters surrendered and were taken over a few hours later An earlier ultimatum Abandonment or suspension from Monday Tent Camp – Banned from all academic and recreational spaces, only allowed to enter their residence halls, and seniors are ineligible to graduate.

Mahmoud Khalil, a lead negotiator, was among the suspended students before talks with the administration broke down over the weekend. In his suspension letter — which he shared with The Associated Press — Khalil said he refused to leave the camp after prior warnings but complied with the university's request to vacate the camp on the campus lawn by a Monday afternoon deadline.

State troopers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024.  (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State troopers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

A state trooper pepper sprays protesters at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024.  (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

A state trooper pepper sprays protesters at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Columbia spokesman Ben Chang said in a statement that anyone occupying Hamilton Hall risks being kicked out of the university for “an unacceptable situation — vandalizing property, breaking doors and windows and blocking entrances.”

The Occupy protesters insisted they would remain in Hamilton Hall until the university agreed to three demands. Exclusion, financial transparency and amnesty.

The Columbia University chapter of the American Association of University Professors said despite school laws requiring counseling, efforts by faculty to help defuse the situation have been repeatedly ignored by university administration. The group warned of possible clashes between nearby police officers and protesters on campus.

“We hold university leadership accountable for the catastrophic lapses in judgment that led us to this point,” the chapter said in a statement late Tuesday. “The university president, his senior staff and the board of trustees are held accountable for any injuries that occur during any police action on our campus.”

Ilana Levkovich, a “left-wing Zionist” student at Columbia, said it was difficult to concentrate in school for weeks amid calls for Zionists to die or leave campus. He said his exams were punctuated with chants of “Say it loud, say it clear, Zionists out of here” in the background.

Levkovich, who identifies as Jewish and attended Columbia's Tel Aviv campus, said he wishes current pro-Palestinian protests were more open to those like him who criticize Israel's war policies but believe in the existence of an Israeli state.

People involved in the Columbia protests vehemently denied Adams' accusations that outsiders were driving the protests or unduly influencing them, although they acknowledged that some who were not part of the university community attended.

NYPD officers made similar claims about “rioters outside” during the massive, grassroots protests against racial injustice that erupted across the city in 2020 after the death of George Floyd. Activists are the work of violent extremists.

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Mattis reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press journalists from around the country contributed to this report, including Karen Mathews, Jim Vertuno, Hannah Schoenbaum, Sarah Brumfield, Stefanie Dazio, Christopher Weber, Carolyn Thompson, Dave Collins, Makiya Seminera, Philip Marcelo and Corey Williams.

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This story has been corrected to show that Columbia University has not canceled its major graduation event.

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