Columbia protesters take over Hamilton Hall — same building demonstrators occupied during 1968 anti-Vietnam war protests

Columbia University begins suspending students still at encampment

Columbia University begins suspending students still at encampment


NEW YORK — Protesters on Columbia University’s campus occupied Hamilton Hall early Tuesday — the same building demonstrators took over during anti-Vietnam War protests in 1968.

Addressing a crowd in front of the building, one protester said, “We demand that Columbia divest all of its finances including the endowment from companies and institutions that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine. … We will not stop until every single one of our demands are meant, until every single inch of Palestine is free.”

A group representing the demonstrators issued a news release spelling out their demands.

The New York Police Department said it has officers outside the campus. Sean Herbert, a CBS News producer, said he saw a small contingent of officers at one spot and additional officers at another.

CBS News has reached out to the school and its police force for comment about the takeover.

The protesters unfurled a large banner from a Hamilton Hall window saying “Free Palestine” — as seen in the image below taken from a video shot by Herbert:

Banner that protesters unfurled outside the occupied Hamilton Hall on Columbia University’s campus early on April 30, 2024.

CBS News

They also unfurled a banner renaming it Hind’s Hall, after Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian killed in Gaza three months ago.

Earlier, demonstrators said they’d set up a second encampment on campus.

Columbia started suspending students Monday who refused to leave the protest encampment by the school-imposed 2 p.m. deadline.

But as day turned into night and Tuesday quickly approached, most of the students that spoke to CBS New York said they weren’t going anywhere.

It was unclear whether the school would will ask the NYPD to clear the encampment. Columbia is private property, so police cannot enter without being requested to by the administration.

Hundreds of students marched and rallied on campus earlier in the day in support of their classmates, who have been camped out on the lawn for nearly two weeks in support of Palestinians.

After negotiating with protesters for several days, the Columbia administration announced the sides were not able to come to an agreement. Columbia said it will not divest from Israel but did offer to review student proposals and establish more transparency for the school’s investment holdings.

That, however, was not enough for the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

As the deadline came and went, some faculty locked arms to protect the encampment, including Reinhold Martin, an architectural history professor.

“To defend their right to speak politically and peacefully,” Martin said.

All of that happened on the same day some students filed a federal class action lawsuit against Columbia, arguing it has failed to protect them against antisemitism and harassment, violating its own policies.

“If they can enforce their procedures and restore campus to some sense of normalcy, then the lawsuit will go away,” attorney Jay Edelson said.

Students who remain risk not ending semester in good standing  

The Columbia administration circulated a letter to students on Monday telling protesters if they had voluntarily left the encampment by 2 p.m. and signed a form committing to abide by university policies, they would be eligible to complete the semester in good standing.

If not, they would be suspended indefinitely, barred from completing this semester, not allowed to graduate if seniors, and banned from campus and residential housing.

“This movement has sparked nationwide international movement, anti-war movement across U.S. colleges and universities, national universities. So we already achieved a lot by just starting this encampment and we will remain here until all U.S. universities, especially Columbia, will divest,” student protest negotiator Mahmoud Khalil said. “The students made it clear they’re willing to stay here as long as needed to achieve their demands.”

“They’re standing up for what is right and I’m standing up for them,” student Michael Ostuno said of his support for the pro-Palestinian cause. 

“I am happy Columbia is taking a stance to protect its Jewish and Israeli student body who have been fearful these past few weeks,” one student said.

One student said he came to campus for the last day of classes despite having a virtual option.

“To show I’m not afraid and growing up in Israel a big recurring theme was ‘never again’ and I don’t think Jews should be intimidated,” the student said.

Graduation is scheduled for May 15 on the same lawn where the encampment is.

Encampment set up at Rutgers University

Students at Rutgers University set up an encampment at the New Brunswick campus on Monday after first holding a rally and then marching to the location.

They’re trying to get the attention of the university’s Board of Governors and the Joint Committee on Investments after they felt their request for the school to divest from Israel was ignored at a meeting on Thursday.

Earlier this month, more than 6,000 students voted in favor of a referendum calling on university administrators to withdraw investments in Israel and cancel the school’s partnership with Tel Aviv University. More than 1,500 voted against the idea.

There are 44,000 students enrolled in New Brunswick. Those who spoke to CBS New York at Monday’s rally declined to go on camera.

“I’m here to support our students, all of them, and to see what our students are going with, what they feel passionate about, and also, I believe in the cause, the idea of divesting being an important part to move our university toward a more moral position,” said Kaiser Aslam, Muslim chaplain of the Rutgers Center for Islamic Life.

“I am Jewish and in terms of antisemitism at these rallies, I have never felt as safe anywhere as I do at these rallies. I have never felt as embraced as I do at these rallies,” said Ellen Rosner, a local resident. 

Rutgers says the request is under review and that the school’s president, who has no direct role in the investment process, has made clear his personal opposition to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and his support for the relationship with Tel Aviv University.

On Monday’s rally he said, in part, “Our students want to make a difference in a struggle that has cost far too many innocent lives and that threatens so many more. I respect their right to protest in ways that do not interfere with university operations or with the ability of their fellow students to learn.”

Source link