Police removed protesters from Columbia's Hamilton Hall after the college sought help

NEW YORK (AP) — Police officers in zip ties and riot gear stormed a Columbia University building occupied by pro-Palestinian protesters late Tuesday through a window and arrested dozens.

Demonstrators occupied the administration building, known as Hamilton Hall, for more than 20 hours in a major expansion. Demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war spread across college campuses across the country.

A police bus carrying arrested protesters at Columbia University leaves the campus entrance on 114th Street, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julius Modell)

During a light rain, New York City police officers detain people near the Columbia University campus in New York, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, after a building taken over by protesters was cleared of a tent camp.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

During a light rain, New York City police officers detain people near the Columbia University campus in New York, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, after a building taken over by protesters was cleared of a tent camp. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

In a statement released by a Columbia spokesperson, officers entered the campus after the university requested assistance. A tent camp on the school's grounds began nearly two weeks ago to protest the Israel-Hamas war.

“After the university learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized and besieged, we had no choice,” the school said. “The decision to reach out to the NYPD was in response to the protesters' actions, not because they won. We have made it clear that campus life cannot be interrupted indefinitely by protesters who violate the rules and the law.

NYPD spokesman Carlos Nieves said there were no immediate reports of injuries following the scuffle. Arrests – where the protestors hunched their shoulders An earlier ultimatum It came as other universities stepped up efforts to end the protests – either abandoning or suspending the camp on Monday.

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Not far away at The City College of New York, protesters clashed with police outside the public college's main gate. Video posted on social media by news reporters late Tuesday showed officers dragging some people to the ground and pushing others as they removed people from the street and sidewalks. A camp at the public college, part of the City University of New York system, has been underway since Thursday.

New York City police use a tactical vehicle to enter the top floor of Hamilton Hall on the Columbia University campus, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, after a building was taken over by protesters earlier Tuesday.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City police use a tactical vehicle to enter the top floor of Hamilton Hall on the Columbia University campus, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, after a building was taken over by protesters earlier Tuesday. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Police have swept other campuses across the U.S. over the past two weeks, leading to clashes and more than 1,000 arrests across the country. In rare cases, university officials and protest leaders have struck deals to limit disruption to campus life and upcoming commencement ceremonies.

Columbia's police action came on the 56th anniversary of a similar move to end the occupation of Hamilton Hall by students protesting racism and the Vietnam War.

Earlier on Tuesday, the police department had said that officers will not enter the grounds without a request from the college administration or an immediate emergency. Now, law enforcement will remain in place until May 17, when the university's commencement events will end.

Fabian Lugo, a first-year accounting student, said he was not involved in the protests, saying he was protesting the university's decision to call the police.

“They've shut everything down. It's very serious,” he said. “It feels more like an escalation than an expansion.”

In a letter to senior NYPD officials, Columbia President Minuch Shafiq said the administration was requesting the protesters be removed from the occupied building and a nearby tent camp “with great regret.”

Shafik also weighed in on the idea, first floated by New York City Mayor Eric Adams the day before, that the group that occupied Hamilton was “led by people not affiliated with the university.”

Members of the New York Police Department's Strategic Response Team move toward the entrance of Columbia University, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in New York.  After entering campus, a group of police officers approached Hamilton Hall, the administration building that student protesters had begun occupying earlier in the day.  (AP Photo/Julius Modell)

Members of the New York Police Department's Strategic Response Team move toward the entrance of Columbia University, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julius Modell)

New York City police officers detain people near the Columbia University campus in New York, after a building and tent encampment taken over by protesters were cleared, Tuesday, April 30, 2024.  (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

New York City police officers detain people near the Columbia University campus in New York, after a building and tent encampment taken over by protesters were cleared, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

Neither provided specific evidence to support that argument, which was disputed by protest organizers and participants.

NYPD officers made similar claims about “rioters outside” during the massive, grassroots protests against racial injustice that erupted across the city in 2020 after the death of George Floyd. Activists are the work of violent extremists.

Before officials arrived in Columbia, the White House condemned the protests there and at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, where protesters occupied two buildings. Officials estimate total damage to the Northern California campus at more than $1 million.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden called the students' occupation of the academic building “absolutely the wrong approach” and “not an example of peaceful protest.”

Later, former President Donald Trump appeared on Sean Hannity's show on Fox News Channel to comment on the turmoil in Columbia, and live footage of Hamilton Hall being cleared by police was broadcast. Trump praised the officials.

“But this should never have come to that,” he told Hannity. “And they should have done that before they took over the building, because it would have been a lot easier if they were in tents rather than a building. And there was tremendous damage.”

Other colleges tried to negotiate agreements with the protesters in hopes of holding peaceful commencement ceremonies. as Armistice negotiations Appearing to gain steam, it was unclear whether the talks would prompt an easing of protests.

After Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7, nationwide campus protests began in Colombia in response to Israel's attack on Gaza. Militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 250 hostages. Israel, which has vowed to eradicate Hamas, has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

Israel and its supporters have labeled the university protests as anti-Semitic, while Israel's critics say the accusations are used to silence dissent. Although some protesters were caught on camera making anti-Semitic comments or threatening violence, organizers of the protest, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and opposing the war.

On Columbia's campus, protesters first set up a tent camp nearly two weeks ago. The school sent police to remove the tents the next day, arresting more than 100 people, only to have the students return — and sparking a wave of similar encampments on campuses across the country.

Negotiations between the protesters and the college have stalled in recent days, and the school set a Monday afternoon deadline for activists to drop or suspend the tent camp.

Instead, protesters defied an ultimatum, carrying furniture and metal barricades and occupying Hamilton Hall early Tuesday morning. Demonstrators named the building Hinds Hall, in honor of a young woman killed in Gaza by Israeli fire, and demanded divestment, financial transparency and amnesty.

The Columbia University chapter of the American Association of University Professors said despite school laws requiring counseling, efforts by faculty to help defuse the situation have been repeatedly ignored by university administration.

Ilana Levkovich, a “left-wing Zionist” student at Columbia, said it was difficult to concentrate in school for weeks amid calls for Zionists to die or leave campus. He said his exams were punctuated with chants of “Say it loud, say it clear, Zionists out of here” in the background.

Levkovich, who identifies as Jewish and attended Columbia's Tel Aviv campus, said he wishes current pro-Palestinian protests were more open to those like him who criticize Israel's war policies but believe in the existence of an Israeli state.

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Dazio reports from Los Angeles. Associated Press journalists from around the country contributed to this report, including Cedar Attanasio, Jonathan Mattise, Colleen Long, Karen Matthews, Jim Vertuno, Hannah Schoenbaum, Sarah Brumfield, Christopher Weber, Carolyn Thompson, Dave Collins, Makiya Willicelo, P Corhiey Willicelo, P .

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