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Columbia created this mess, now they have to clean it up

After weeks of letting a pro-Hamas mob rule its campus, Columbia University finally called on the New York Police Department to retake a university building and clear out the surrounding encampments of protesters.

Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York — who, admittedly, has some experience evacuating buildings — said he was “outraged by the level of police presence called upon nonviolent student protesters.”

In reality, a show of overwhelming force by the NYPD — which included hundreds of specially trained officers in riot gear — was the only way to minimize the risk of violence by showing the entitled hooligans, who were illegally occupying a university building, that grown-ups were finally back in charge.

The NYPD said that they had arrested 119 people at Columbia without reported injuries and charged them with offenses including burglary, trespass, and criminal mischief. However, it remains to be seen whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will actually prosecute them.

What is abundantly clear is that things never would have gotten to this point were it not for Columbia’s feeble administrators, starting with Minouche Shafik, the university president. Instead of intervening deliberately the moment that protesters began breaking rules, she coddled the protesters and gave them every reason to believe that they would never face any consequences for their actions.

After initially calling in the NYPD to remove the encampment on April 18, the university allowed students to reestablish it immediately after. Deadline after deadline for the protesters to leave the encampment — a clear violation of multiple university rules — passed with no action, as the university attempted to “negotiate” with the protesters. Faculty members were allowed to join with students and shield them from consequences.

Rampant antisemitism and harassment of Jewish students were on display throughout the protests. Demonstrators called for “intifada” — a reference to the waves of terrorist attacks that killed over 1,000 Israelis well before the October 7 massacres — and shouted at a Jewish student, “The 7th of October is going to be every day for you.” Chants called for erasing Israel, with its 7.2 million Jews, from the “river to the sea.” And — rejecting the idea of even a Palestinian state that exists beside a Jewish one — the protesters yelled, “We want all of it.”

While sympathetic media tried to make the students appear less radical by distinguishing between the encampment itself and the crowds who were gathered outside the gates of the university, this was a distinction without a difference. To start, the protesters just outside the entrance to campus were drawn to the campus by the encampment, and they harassed Jewish students. And practically speaking, it’s Columbia’s responsibility to create a safe environment for Jewish students — so it doesn’t really matter whether it was on the way to the library, or just outside the gates of the university on the way to their dorm rooms, that they were told to “go back to Poland.”

Besides, it isn’t as if the protests inside the university — which created no-go zones for anti-intifada Jewish students and canceled in-person classes — were tame.

One leader of the protests, Khymani James, led a group of students to form a human chain to forcibly drive “Zionists” from the encampment. When video surfaced of James saying that “Zionists deserved to die”  and declaring — in a January disciplinary hearing — “Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists,” he was finally barred from campus.

The mob that broke into Hamilton Hall was not nonviolent, either. They smashed windows. They prevented a janitor in the building from leaving. And they hung a giant Intifada sign on the side of the building. Despite their lawlessness, the sense of entitlement never left the protesters, who followed the lead of their Hamas role models by breaking the rules and then claiming to be victims. A spokeswoman for the action, Marxist poetry Ph.D. candidate Johannah King-Slutzky, held a press conference in which she demanded that Columbia ensure the flow of “basic humanitarian aid” to the students who had barricaded themselves inside the building with a mix of industrial-grade chains, furniture, and vending machines. All which required the police to take a large truck with a ramp that allowed officers to enter through a window on the second floor.

Columbia could have saved itself a lot of grief had it adopted the posture of the University of Florida, run by Ben Sasse, the former U.S. senator. The university communicated to protesters how they could exercise their free-speech rights and what crossed the line into disrupting university life for other students, and then it punished those who crossed the line. “This is not complicated: The University of Florida is not a day care, and we do not treat protesters like children — they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences,” the school announced.

Only in the bizarro world of higher education does a university deserve special recognition for treating grown college students as adults who can be held responsible for their actions.

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