Protesters Occupy Hamilton Hall at Columbia: Live Updates of College Protests

The building occupation on the Columbia University campus early Tuesday marked a particularly tense 24 hours of pro-Palestinian protests across the country. .

Police began arresting protesters who had occupied a building at California State Polytechnic University in Humboldt for more than a week. And at Portland State University in Oregon, students took over a library.

In Manhattan, the takeover of Hamilton Hall at Columbia began just after midnight, with protesters marching around the campus chanting “Free Palestine.” Within 20 minutes, protesters took over the Hamilton, a 118-year-old building that has been the center of campus protests since the 1960s. A spokesman for Columbia was not immediately available.

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Columbia protesters occupied a building on campus

Those inside blocked the doors of Hamilton Hall with furniture. Outside, demonstrators linked arms to the walls of the entrances.

“Palestine shall live forever.” “Go, alas.” “Free, Free Palestine.” “Free, Free, Free Palestine.” “Close it.” “Palestine shall be free.” “Release, withdraw, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

Those inside blocked the doors of Hamilton Hall with furniture. Outside, demonstrators linked arms to the walls of the entrances.debtdebt…Bing Guan for The New York Times

Outside the neoclassical building, protesters, many wearing helmets, safety glasses, gloves and masks, besieged the entrance. Those inside lined up chairs and tables at the entrance. A protester took a hammer to break the glass part of a door. The protesters seem to have free control of the building.

The building, named after Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury Secretary, has been at the center of the movements since at least 1968.

Tuesday promises to be another tense day on the Columbia campus in Manhattan, with students poised to take further action against a pro-Palestinian encampment on campus and administrators waiting to see if their decision to suspend protesters at the site will quell the protests.

Demonstrators in Portland took control of the library at Portland State University on Monday, where some painted words such as “Free Gaza,” a sign proclaimed “Glory to our Martyrs,” and activists called for severing all ties with the university. Boeing supplied weapons to the Israeli army.

Bob Day, chief of the Portland Police Bureau, estimated 50 to 75 protesters were inside the building Monday night. Authorities urged protesters to leave the area and warned that those involved could face criminal charges

Student protesters marched around the campus on the Columbia University campus on Tuesday.debt…Bing Guan for The New York Times

Columbia announced Monday evening that it had begun suspending students who failed to leave the camp on its Manhattan campus by a deadline set by the university the day before. After a day of protests and chaos, the move reflected the difficult balance Columbia executives are trying to strike.

The students at the camp, along with hundreds of supporters, spent a tense afternoon surrounding the site in force to prevent the removal of its tents. But with no sign of police action, most of the protesters began to disperse by late afternoon, leaving several dozen students and about 80 tents inside the camp.

Just outside, about a dozen teachers wearing yellow and orange safety vests also stayed behind, many saying they planned to stay overnight to ensure their students' right to protest was respected.

Columbia's move appeared to be an effort to phase out the nearly two-week-old encampment ahead of the university's May 15 graduation, rather than forcefully root it out, a move administrators feared would spark more protests. The university said it has not identified all the students in the camp but has identified some. They will be notified individually of their suspension via email.

“We have begun suspending students as part of the next phase of efforts to ensure the safety of our campus,” university spokesman Ben Chang said.

According to the university, only students who stayed at the camp after 2pm on Monday will face immediate suspension, not the hundreds who came to protect the camp and show their support in the afternoon.

So far, at least, a significant portion of the student protesters have vowed to stay. At a news conference, Sueda Polat, a student organizer of the camp, said the university had made no significant concessions to divest from companies linked to the Israeli occupation of Gaza, a key demand of the protesters. Colombia has also suspended negotiations. As a result, students inside the camp “will not be moved except by force,” he said.

“We were asked to disperse, but it was against the wishes of the students,” he said. “We are not succumbing to university pressures. We are acting on the basis of the wishes of the students,” he said.

Source: Google Earth

Note: Picture taken on Monday 29th April

By Leanne Abraham; Photo by Ping Guan

Elka Castro, 47, an assistant professor in the Spanish department at Barnard College, Columbia's sister school, is among the faculty and staff members guarding access to the tents. “I have my views on Gaza and Palestine, but I'm mainly here to protect my students,” he said.

Ms. Castro said she had not received any information from Colombia on whether teachers participating in the protest would be subject to censorship.

Protesters in Columbia sparked similar pro-Palestinian demonstrations on campuses across the country. Hundreds of students have been arrested.

Administrators at New York University, facing a renewed pro-Palestinian camp there, took similar action to Columbia on Monday. It said it was “proceeding with disciplinary action” against students who did not disperse, instead of calling in police to clear the encampment, as it did a week ago, which led to more than 100 arrests.

At Princeton University in New Jersey, a group of protesters briefly occupied Cleo Hall, home of the graduate school, on Monday night. Thirteen people were arrested, including five undergraduate students, six graduate students, a postgraduate researcher and one person not affiliated with the university. All those arrested received summonses for trespassing and have been banned from campus. The students will also face university discipline, which could extend to suspension or expulsion, Princeton President Chris Eisgruber said in a statement.

About 20 miles north, students set up neon-colored tents on the lawn of Rutgers University's New Brunswick campus after a noon rally.

At Columbia, administrators distributed a notice to the camp Monday morning saying talks with student protest leaders were deadlocked. It urged students to leave voluntarily to allow the school to prepare the lawn for graduation ceremonies.

The university is trying to avoid recalling police at the request of Columbia administrators on April 18, when more than 100 students were arrested and outside the school's gates drew waves of angry protests, some of which included blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric.

“We once called the NYPD to destroy the camp,” Columbia's president, Nemet Shafik, wrote in a letter. Report Co-Chairs of Columbia's Board of Trustees co-signed last Friday for the community. “But based on the discussions we've all had in our community and with outside experts, bringing back the NYPD at this time would have a negative effect and further exacerbate what's happening on campus.”

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The notice issued on Monday warned the protesting students that “the ongoing unauthorized encampment and disturbances on the Columbia University campus are creating an unwelcoming environment for members of our community.”

It said students would not be penalized for participating in the camp if they signed a form promising not to violate university rules by the end of the next academic year. Students at the camp who have already faced discipline from previous violations will not be eligible for the same deal, the document said.

Columbia has already suspended about 50 students for the original campout on a neighboring lawn. But that move hasn't stopped a wide range of protesters from forming the current camp.

Reporting contributed Anna Betts, Erin Davis, Tracey Tully, Carla Marie Sanford, John Yoon And Mike Baker.

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