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NYPD officers remove anti-Israel protesters from Columbia campus

Hundreds of New York City police officers equipped with riot gear began taking anti-Israel protesters into custody Tuesday evening after Columbia University called in the police to end the pro-Palestinian occupation of a campus building.

Dozens of Columbia protesters occupied Hamilton Hall early Tuesday morning and blocked the entrances to claim the area as their own. Protesters could be seen smashing windows and barricading themselves inside the building, one day after the university began suspending students for refusing to leave a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus.

Multiple protesters could be seen getting arrested and escorted onto buses. It was immediately unclear how many were detained. The police department denied using tear gas when clashing with protesters; flash-bang grenades and other “distraction devices” were used instead, according to an NYPD spokesperson.

The New York Police Department received a letter from Columbia president Minouche Shafik authorizing officers to move onto campus. The NYPD closed off streets around Columbia, slowly moving toward the barricaded campus location. Officers then entered Hamilton Hall through a second-floor window and began pulling students out of the building, according to Columbia radio station WKCR-FM.

“The decision to reach out to the NYPD was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing,” university spokesman Ben Chang said in a statement. “We have made it clear that the life of campus cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violate the rules and the law.”

The building occupation is believed to have been led by people not affiliated with the university, Chang added.

In addition to clearing out all encampments, Shafik asked city police to maintain a presence on campus for at least two more weeks.

“In light of the activities that occurred after the events of April 17-18, 2024, we further request that you retain a presence on campus through at least May 17, 2024 to maintain order and ensure encampments are not reestablished,” Shafik wrote in the letter to NYPD deputy commissioner Michael Gerber. The school’s commencement is scheduled for May 15.

The NYPD is awaiting another letter from Columbia allowing its forces to clear out protesters from the campus encampment within the next one to two hours, an official told CNN.

Columbia students were previously ordered to shelter in place, according to an email late Tuesday. “Shelter in place for your safety due to heightened activity on the Morningside campus. Non-compliance may result in disciplinary action. Avoid the area until further notice,” Columbia’s Emergency Management Operations Team told students.

Police also ordered students to remain inside dorms located off campus.

A similar situation was developing at the City College of New York, where the NYPD began mass arrests after an anti-Israel demonstrator breached the police perimeter.

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