Sunday , May 19 2024

Columbia protesters vow to remain until demands met


NEW YORK: Pro-Palestinian protesters have refused to disband from Columbia University’s main campus after a midnight deadline was set by the institution’s president.

Dr Minouche Shafik warned demonstrators that “alternative options” would have to be considered for clearing the area on the New York City campus if an agreement with demonstrators was not reached.

A group representing pro-Palestinian protesters said it would not continue engaging in negotiations.

No police action has been reported.

The standoff comes as tense Gaza war protests have spread to US colleges nationwide.

Some 133 people were arrested on Monday in protests at New York University.

Dozens of arrests were also made in rallies at Yale, while Harvard has restricted access to the campus.

Gaza war demonstrations have also cropped up at colleges in the US Midwest and on the West Coast, where one campus has been closed.

At Columbia, officials said on Tuesday that an ongoing protest encampment on university grounds in Manhattan is in violation of the rules.

Dr Shafik announced a midnight deadline for negotiations as a result, stating that the university “will have to consider alternative options for clearing the West Lawn and restoring calm to campus so that students can complete the term and graduate” if an agreement between students and administration staff was not reached.

Just after midnight, Columbia University Apartheid Divest – a coalition of pro-Palestinian student groups – said it would not continue to engage in negotiations “until there is a written commitment that the administration will not be unleashing the NYPD or the National Guard on its students”.

Prior to the president’s warning, the university extended remote classes at the campus for the rest of term.

Columbia provost Angela Olinto announced students would have the option of attending classes remotely at the Ivy League institution’s main Morningside Campus until the last day of classes on 29 April. “Safety is our highest priority,” she said in an email. Jewish students have expressed concern about antisemitism on and around Columbia’s campus.

On Monday, President Joe Biden said he condemned both “the anti-Semitic protests” as well as “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians”.

One student filed an NYPD hate crime report on Monday saying that he had been hit in the head with a rock while carrying an Israeli flag, the New York Post reported.

Shai Davidai, a Columbia University professor who has been outspoken about his support for Israel, said he was banned from campus and his ID was “deactivated”.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine said they “firmly reject any form of hate or bigotry” and disavowed “inflammatory individuals who do not represent us”.

The Columbia University president said tensions on campus had been “exploited and amplified by individuals who are not affiliated with Columbia who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas”.

Dr Shafik last week defended her efforts to tackle antisemitism on campus as she testified to a US congressional committee.

Also last week, New York City police arrested more than 100 people amid Gaza war demonstrations on Columbia’s campus, including the daughter of Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar. (Int’l News Desk)

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