USA: Campus protests: Columbia students occupy building

USA: Campus protests: Columbia students occupy building

The situation is getting worse at New York’s elite Columbia University. Demonstrators occupy a university building at night. The White House is also speaking out.

The pro-Palestinian demonstrations at New York’s elite Columbia University, which have been going on for almost two weeks, are threatening to escalate. On Tuesday night (local time), demonstrators broke into a building on the campus in northern Manhattan. It is the Hamilton Hall, which was also occupied in 1968 during a protest against the Vietnam War. The White House expressed clear criticism.

Videos showed masked people wearing black and white Palestinian scarves breaking windows and barricading the entrance to the building with chairs and tables. According to the Columbia Spectator student newspaper, there were several dozen protesters in the building. Hundreds more demonstrated in front of it. The police are standing by outside the university campus in case there are any injuries.

Student groups Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine and Columbia University Apartheid Divest said they would not leave Hamilton Hall until their demands were met. “Occupying a building is a small risk compared to the daily resistance of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” said a statement shared on the X platform, formerly Twitter. Columbia University recommended that students and employees only visit the campus on Tuesday for safety reasons in urgent cases and further restricted access to the site.

On Monday, the university announced that it would suspend students if they did not leave a protest camp on the university campus by the afternoon. The demonstrators criticize Israel’s actions in the Gaza war and demand solidarity with the Palestinians. They also demand that the university end financial relationships with Israel. The university rejected that on Monday.

The US government also reacted to the occupation during the night: “Forcibly taking over a building on campus is absolutely the wrong approach. This is not an example of peaceful protest,” said National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby. A small percentage of students should not be able to disrupt everyone’s academic education. “Students who are paying to attend college and seeking an education should be able to pursue their education without disruption and feel safe doing so,” Kirby continued. Hate speech and symbols of hate have no place in the USA.

Herzog: “Danger to academic freedom”

Almost two weeks ago, an operation by the New York police at Columbia University caused a stir and criticism, which resulted in protests and the setting up of tent camps at dozens of universities in the USA. Since then, more than 800 people have been arrested across the country, including university staff, according to the New York Times. Some are accused of anti-Semitism and trivializing the Islamist Hamas, whose goal, among other things, is the destruction of the state of Israel.

Israeli President Izchak Herzog called the “horrific anti-Semitic actions” at Columbia University deeply disturbing. “American science must become aware of the threat,” Herzog wrote on Platform X. He spoke of “a clear and present danger to academic freedom and to the lives of Jews on campus.” Herzog called for measures to prevent anti-Semitism on campus.

Hamas and other Islamist groups killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 250 as hostages in the Gaza Strip on October 7 last year. Israel then responded with a ground offensive and air strikes in the coastal area. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority, Israeli attacks have killed around 34,500 people since the start of the war.

Source: Stern

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