Over 100 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested during NYPD raid of Columbia University

NEW YORK — Over 100 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested when an army of NYPD cops stormed Columbia University to end the seizure of a school building where all the doors had been barricaded with bicycle locks, officials said Wednesday.

Officers, some wielding chainsaws, climbed in through windows Tuesday night to enter Columbia’s Hamilton Hall academic building, which was occupied by protesters less than 24 hours earlier as part of a demonstration that started last month and has sparked similar pro-Palestine actions on college campuses across the U.S.

In an early Wednesday morning MSNBC appearance with Mayor Adams, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard said once inside Hamilton Hall, cops found protesters had barricaded doors with chain-link bicycle locks.

“This is what we encountered on every door inside Hamilton Hall,” Sheppard said while holding up one of the heavy locks. “This is not what students bring to school, OK?”

In response to Sheppard’s remarks, Columbia students noted on social media that the university’s Public Safety Department has actually been selling the very type of lock held up by Sheppard as part of an anti-bike theft program on campus.

In a press conference at NYPD headquarters later Wednesday, NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban brought up the bike lock issue again.

“They tried to lock us out, but the NYPD and the people of the city of New York will never be locked out,” Caban said before slamming the lock loudly against the dais.

At the same news conference, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said 109 protesters in total were arrested at Columbia, about 50 of them inside the occupied Hamilton Hall. Another 173 were arrested during a separate raid of a pro-Palestine encampment on the City College campus in Harlem, where video posted to X showed officers tackling protesters to the ground before cuffing them.

Sheppard said there were no reported injuries during the clashes, though he added the NYPD is still “sorting through” those arrested.

Sheppard called the police raid of Hamilton Hall a “calm, precise operation.” Charges protesters could face include burglary, trespassing and criminal mischief, according to police officials.

The mayor and members of his administration have said the escalation of pro-Palestine protests this week was spearheaded by unidentified “outside agitators,” a claim denied by student demonstration leaders.

On Wednesday, Adams said there’s evidence the demonstrators who took over Hamilton smashed security cameras and “were trained on how to barricade a location, on what type of locks to use.”

Though he didn’t identify her, Adams also said the NYPD discovered that among those who have participated in the Columbia encampment is a woman whose husband is a convicted terrorist.

Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence Rebecca Weiner said at NYPD headquarters that woman wasn’t present for Tuesday night’s raid, however, and that there’s “no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing on her part.”

“But that’s not someone who I would want necessarily influencing my child if I were a parent of somebody at Columbia,” said Weiner, adding that the woman was seen on the campus last week.

The mayor and NYPD officials declined repeatedly in the briefing say how many of those arrested were “outside agitators,” citing an ongoing investigation.

On MSNBC, Adams suggested the outside agitators may have overseas connections.

“There are people who are harmful, who are trying to radicalize our children, and we cannot ignore this. These outside influences, I don’t know if they’re international, I think we need to look into that as well,” he said. “But there’s an attempt to radicalize young people in this country.”

The mayor declined to elaborate on why he suspects there might be an international connection to the campus protests when asked by the Daily News later in the day during an unrelated event at City Hall.

Adams, a retired NYPD captain who was a prominent advocate against racism while a cop, said at the NYPD headquarters briefing he knows leaders of the 1960s civil rights movement were maligned as “outside agitators” by segregationists.

“We understand that, but this Police Department cannot be caught up on what’s political correct terminology, we have to be caught up on public safety,” he said.

Besides bike locks, videos shared by the NYPD show cops removed chairs and other furniture used as barricades during the Hamilton Hall raid.

Students took over the building shortly after midnight Monday amid a weekslong protest on campus against Israel’s military incursion in Gaza, which has left more than 34,000 Palestinians dead and was launched in response to Hamas fighters killing 1,200 Israelis and taking hundreds more hostage during the Oct. 7, 2023 terror attack.

Columbia leaders confirmed late Tuesday they requested the NYPD deployment — which involved hundreds of officers — in response to the Hamilton Hall occupation.

That marked a reversal from a few weeks ago, when Columbia President Minouche Shafik said the university would not invite NYPD officers back after they arrested about 100 protesters as part of a day-time raid on April 18. Instead, Shafik said then that Columbia would engage in negotiations with the student protest leaders, who have demanded the university divest all its Israeli financial holdings in response to the war in Gaza.

The NYPD’s City College raid, which also came at the invitation of school leaders, included officers clearing an encampment set up on the campus quad and taking dozens of people into custody. No school buildings had been occupied as part of that protest.

The mass arrests just before midnight at City College followed an announcement that the Harlem college would shift to online classes “until further notice” as the campus continued to be roiled by the pro-Gaza encampment.

After razing the City College encampment, NYPD officials, including Sheppard and Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry, were seen on video taking down a Palestinian flag from the campus flagpole and tossing it away before replacing it with an American flag.

At NYPD headquarters Wednesday, Adams said it was “despicable” that protesters had hoisted a Palestinian flag and lauded Daughtry for taking it down.

“Blame me for being proud for being an American,” the Democratic mayor said. “We are not surrendering our way of life to anyone.”

Left-leaning supporters of the pro-Palestine protesters argued the NYPD’s campus crackdowns were counterproductive and noted they fell on the anniversary of city police officers violently breaking up a demonstration on the Columbia campus against the Vietnam War in 1968.

“On the very same day that Columbia University brought violence upon students protesting the Vietnam War, the mayor and administration have chosen to repeat history,” said Ana María Archila, co-director of the progressive New York Working Families Party.

“The violent crackdowns on students at Columbia and CCNY protesting the mass killings in Gaza are reckless, escalatory, and put the entire university community in harm’s way … This is a shameful day in our city’s history, and one that will not be forgotten.”