Thursday, May 23, 2024

108 Anti-Israel Protesters Arrested, Tents Trashed at Columbia University Protest

HomeWAR108 Anti-Israel Protesters Arrested, Tents Trashed at Columbia University Protest

NEW YORK – Raucous protests over the latest eruption of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the Middle East spilled into chaos at Columbia University on Thursday, as a dramaticpolice crackdown on an anti-Israel encampment led to over 100 arrests and left debris scattered across the Ivy League campus.

In jarring scenes more reminiscent of a riot than a student demonstration, New York Police Department officers clad in helmets and protective armor descended on the Morningside Heights grounds shortly after 1 p.m., tearing down tent after tent as they moved to clear protesters who had consumed a section of the university.

Demonstrators desperately rushed police vehicles transporting the arrested away, with someoly getting forcefully hauled off in handcuffs themselves. Debris and shattered dreams littered the battlefield-like landscapeā€”tents torn asunder, contents strewn about, dreams of peace crumpled.

The law enforcement surge, which university President Minouche Shafik said she had authorized to restore order, marked an escalation in the decades-old Middle East conflict’s reach into the streets and schools of New York City. It followed weeks of protests sparked by the latest tragic cycle of bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians.

As the chaos unfolded, a crowd of protesters frantically rushed toward the police vehicles in a vain attempt to prevent the mass arrests and hauling away of their detained compatriots. Officers shoved them back, at times using physical force.

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Two protesters were charged with obstruction of governmental administration for their defiance, while the other 106 received summonses for trespassing on the private university’s property, according to officials.

“Students have a right to free speech. They absolutely do not have a right to violate policies and disrupt the entire learning environment for others,” a defiant Mayor Eric Adams told reporters amid the pandemonium.

The mayor acknowledged the “raw emotions” surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while defending the NYPD’s aggressive tactics to restore order.

Among those cuffed and hauled into police vans was Isra Hirsi, daughter of U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Democrat and member of the progressive “Squad” who has been an outspoken critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

In an email earlier this week, Shafik informed the Columbia community that she had “regretfully” requested police assistance to remove the “individuals who established the encampment” after they had “violated a long list of rules and policies” by taking over university property.

“I took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances,” Shafik wrote, saying administrators had repeatedly warned protesters to disperse and attempted to engage them through “a number of channels,” only to be rebuffed.

One student, who requested anonymity from the New York Post, expressed relief at the police action, saying: “I applaud the cops. They are doing the right thing. We don’t feel safe. We fear for our lives.”

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The 20-year-old blamed the Palestinian militant group Hamas for instigating the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict fueling the protests.

“Remember who started this? Hamas, that terrorist group,” the student said. “We pay a lot of money to come here and we should feel safe and protected.”

In her letter requesting the NYPD’s intervention, Shafik instructed officers to first utilize long-range acoustic devices, known as LRADs, to order protesters to vacate before escalating to physical removal.

“We trust that you will take care and caution when removing any individual from our campus. The safety and security of our community is our highest priority,” she wrote to the department’s deputy commissioner for legal matters. “We appreciate your commitment to assist us in a peaceful and respectful manner at this difficult time.”

The showdown at the prestigious university unfolded amid a broader backdrop of escalating violence in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, with Palestinian militants in Gaza firing streams of rockets into Israel this week, drawing deadly Israeli air strikes in response.

The encampment protests marked the latest tendrils of that overseas struggle to bleed over into the streets, schools and public spaces of American cities with large Jewish and Palestinian diasporas.

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In New York and elsewhere, the Palestinian cause has galvanized support from left-wing activist groups, pro-Palestinian student organizations and others aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement opposing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Pro-Israel advocates, including many American Jews, counter that the Palestinian leadership has incited and glorified violence against Israeli civilians, rejecting what they consider reasonable grounds for peaceful coexistence.

As the smoke–both literal and metaphorical–cleared at Columbia on Thursday evening, opposing sides could agree on only one thing: The path to a peaceful, equitable resolution to the deeper issues underlying the latest conflagration remains elusive as ever.

For President Shafik and Columbia’s administrators, restoring order on their campus may have addressed the immediate upheaval, but broader debates are sure to rage on, spilling over into more chaos and confrontations in the heart of New York and cities around the world.

The vastly complex, decades-old struggle over land, identity and human rights has long raged in the Middle East, with protests and violence routinely fracturing the fragile desiredpeace. On Thursday, that turmoil arrived in dramatic fashion on the doorstep of one of America’s most prestigious universities, leaving a once-pastoral setting in disarray and many still seeking answers.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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