Ilhan Omar weighs in on Columbia protests where daughter was arrested

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Monday applauded the solidarity among the Columbia University students protesting for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, while noting the attention needs to be kept on the “genocide in Gaza,” as authorities arrest dozens of students, including her daughter, for their involvement.

“On Thursday, Columbia arrested and suspended its students who were peacefully protesting and have now ignited a nationwide Gaza Solidarity movement,” Omar wrote Monday on the social platform X. “This is more than the students hoped for and I am glad to see this type of solidarity. But to be clear, this about the genocide in Gaza and the attention has to remain on that.”

Monday marked the sixth day of pro-Palestinian demonstrations at Columbia University, where more than 100 student protesters, including Omar’s daughter — Isra Hirsi — were arrested and charged with trespassing. The protests are calling for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war and a halt in U.S. military aid to Israel and involve swaths of students occupying the center of campus.

Columbia leadership further escalated tensions last week after authorizing the New York Police Department to arrest students. They also informed student protesters they would be suspended for their involvement.

The arrests appear to have done little to quell the protests, with demonstrations expanding in recent days in response to the opposition. Similar protests have also taken place at other college campuses across the country.

Hirsi, 21, was also among three students suspended from Barnard College, cutting off her access to food and housing. Barnard College is connected to Columbia but has some independence.

Hirsi, in an interview with Teen Vogue over the weekend, recalled finding out about her suspension.

“At that moment, we made an announcement to the camp — because there were an overwhelming amount of Barnard students at camp — and let them know that we had been basically evicted and not allowed into our space, but also officially suspended,” she said.

She told the magazine she was held in zip ties for seven hours before authorities charged her with trespassing and released her. She said her suspension effectively bars her from entering campus, and she has concerns about housing and food access.

The start of the student encampment last Wednesday fell on the same day university President Minouche Shafik was grilled by lawmakers on the House Education Committee about campus antisemitism.

Shafik’s testimony, coupled with her order for arrests, has prompted calls from politicians of both parties to rein in the protests and resign from her post.

Some lawmakers raised concerns about the safety of Jewish students on campus. Columbia moved classes online amid the unrest starting Monday, hours before the Jewish holiday of Passover begins.

The White House on Sunday condemned the calls for “violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students” amid the ongoing unrest at several college campuses.

Antisemitism has been on the rise since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, though a significant portion of the protesting students are Jewish. Several protest groups have pushed back against characterizations of their demonstrations as antisemitic.

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