Columbia Students Take Over Hamilton Hall as Deadline to Disperse Passes

Katabella Roberts
By Katabella Roberts
April 30, 2024US News
Anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University took over a building on campus and barricaded themselves inside as the deadline to disperse expired. The school said students refusing to leave are being suspended. Amid the chaos, Columbia closed its campus to non-residential students and the media. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul condemned the occupation.

Dozens of students at Columbia University in New York City stormed across the campus and took over a building early on Tuesday, just one day after the school began suspending students who defied a deadline to disperse from a pro-Palestinian encampment, a spokesperson for the university confirmed to The Epoch Times.

In an emailed statement to The Epoch Times, Ben Chang, vice president for communications at Columbia University, said students had begun barricading themselves inside Hamilton Hall—a building near the South Lawn where the office of the dean is located—in the early hours of the morning.

“The safety of every single member of this community is paramount,” Mr. Chang said, adding that the school had alerted its campus community.

“In light of the protest activity, we have asked members of the University community who can avoid coming to the Morningside campus to do so; essential personnel should report to work according to university policy, “ he said.

Mr. Chang also noted that access to the campus had been limited to students residing in residential buildings on campus and employees who provide essential services to campus buildings, labs, and residential student life.

According to The New York Times, the students began occupying the hall at around 12:35 a.m.

The protesters linked arms and blocked off the main entrance to the building at the Ivy League institution after previously marching around campus to chants of “free Palestine,” according to the publication.

A statement shared on the social media platform Instagram by student groups said the protesters had “taken matters into their own hands,” and would remain in the building until the university “divests from death.” Protesters have been urging the university to pause its investments in companies that, they claim, are profiting from Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The statement included video footage that appeared to show the students carrying metal barricades into Hamilton Hall as other students cheered them on.

“This escalation is in line with the historical student movements of 1968, 1985, and 1996 which Columbia repressed then and celebrates now,” the statement read. “This action will force the university to confront the blood on its hands.”

In the statement, the student group further accused the university of having been “complicit” in “Israel’s ongoing genocidal assault on the Gaza strip” for the past seven months.

“The students are on the right side of history,” the statement continued. “We know that the university will remember them as anti-apartheid, anti-genocide activists with moral clarity.”

NTD Photo
Demonstrators from the pro-Palestinian encampment on Columbia’s Campus barricade themselves inside Hamilton Hall, an academic building which has been occupied in past student movements, in New York on April 30, 2024. (Alex Kent/Getty Images)

Protesters Make Demands

According to Politico, protesters hung a sign reading “intifada,” which is Arabic for uprising, from the front of the building.

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department told Politico that law enforcement officers were outside the university campus as of Tuesday; however, they declined to elaborate further on exactly how many officers were on site or whether they had authorization to enter the school grounds.

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson at Columbia University and the New York Police Department for further comment.

The takeover of Hamilton Hall occurred just hours after the university confirmed that it had begun suspending some students. The pro-Palestinian students failed to disband before Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline.

NTD Photo
Students/protestors lock arms to guard potential authorities against reaching fellow protestors who barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall, an academic building which has been occupied in past student movements, in New York on April 30, 2024. (Alex Kent/Getty Images)

Students have occupied the lawn in the middle of campus—in which graduation ceremonies are scheduled to take place for roughly 15,000 students on May 15—for nearly two weeks while calling on the university to disclose and divest from any of its financial ties to Israel.

They are also calling for an end to alleged “land grabs” in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City and Palestine, no more policing on the university campus, and no academic ties with Israeli universities.

However, negotiations between university officials and student protest leaders broke down earlier in the day when the university rejected their demands, prompting officials to issue the 2 p.m. deadline.

In a statement, Minouche Shafik, Columbia’s president, said that ultimately, the university will not divest from Israel, adding that the school is committed to maintaining its core principles and shared values, which include ensuring no students suffer from harassment and discrimination and no anti-Semitic language is used.

Columbia University Students Protest
Columbia University students protest the Israel/Gaza conflict at Columbia University in New York City on April 27, 2024. (Emel Akan/The Epoch Times)

School, Students Fail to Reach Agreement

“Both sides in these discussions put forward robust and thoughtful offers and worked in good faith to reach common ground,” Ms. Shafik said. “We thank them all for their diligent work, long hours, and careful effort and wish they had reached a different outcome.”

While the University will not divest from Israel, it has offered to “develop an expedited timeline for review of new proposals from the students by the Advisory Committee for Socially Responsible Investing, the body that considers divestment matters,” Ms. Shafik noted.

“The University also offered to publish a process for students to access a list of Columbia’s direct investment holdings, and to increase the frequency of updates to that list of holdings,” she added.

Ben Chang, vice president for communications at Columbia University, confirmed the suspensions had begun in a press conference late Monday, USA Today reports.

He added that students had been notified in advance that they would face disciplinary action, including suspension if they did not vacate the encampment by 2 p.m. ET and sign a form committing to abide by student politics until either June 30, 2025, or until their graduation, whichever came first.

The site of the protests has created an unwelcoming environment for many Jewish students and faculty members, he said. It has also been a source of loud noise.

“We’ve been suspending students as part of this next phase of our efforts to ensure safety on campus,” Mr. Chang said.

Mr. Chang did not provide further details regarding how many students from Columbia and its affiliate Barnard College have been disciplined. However, he confirmed that those suspended would not be able to finish the semester or graduate, Axios reports.

They will also be banned from entering any campus housing or academic buildings, he added.

Juliette Fairley contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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