Columbia threatens to evict student protesters occupying campus building

NEW YORK (AP) — Dozens of protesters took over a building at Columbia University on Tuesday, blocking entrances and hoisting a Palestinian flag from a window. Demonstrations against the Israel-Hamas war on college campuses across the country. The school assured them they would be expelled.

Occupy campus in New York – where protesters snapped shoulders An earlier ultimatum Monday's abandonment – or suspension – of the tent camp came as other universities stepped up efforts to end the protests. Police cordoned off some campuses, leading to clashes and arrests. In rare cases, university officials and protest leaders have reached agreements to limit disruption to campus life.

A pro-Palestinian protester shouts “Free Palestine” as he is handcuffed by University of Texas at Austin police on campus, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Austin, Texas. (Aaron E. Martinez/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

And so on Armistice negotiations Appearing to gain steam, it's unclear whether those talks will encourage an easing of campus protests.

Protesters at Columbia's Manhattan campus locked arms and moved furniture and metal barricades to Hamilton Hall early Tuesday morning. were occupied 1968 During the Civil Rights and Vietnam War protests. Protest organizers posted on Instagram just after midnight, urging people to protect the camps and join them at Hamilton Hall. A “Free Palestine” banner hung from one window.

On social media Tuesday, a protest group called the CU apartheid desegregation building Hinds Hall, honoring a young woman. Killed in Gaza Under Israeli fire.

“Students occupying the building face eviction,” Columbia spokesman Ben Chang said in a statement Tuesday. The university has offered protesters the opportunity to walk out peacefully and finish the semester, but those who disagree are suspended — barred from all academic and recreational spaces, only allowed to enter their residences and, as seniors, ineligible to graduate.

“We are following through with the consequences we outlined yesterday for the protesters to an unacceptable situation – damaging property, breaking doors and windows and blocking entrances,” he said.

A CU Apartheid Divest spokesperson said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that some students recently learned they were suspended for protesting. She declined to give her name, but said she was a Columbia graduate student and that she had been suspended and was not allowed back on campus.

He insisted that he was not representative of the students who occupied the administration building, but assured them that their commitment would not waver despite the risk to their education and lives.

“We are willing to take a very small amount of risk compared to what the brave people of Gaza deal with every day,” he said.

Pro-Palestinian protesters continue to occupy the grounds of the University of California, Los Angeles in front of Royce Hall, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Los Angeles.  Security has cordoned off the camp after clashes broke out on Sunday between pro-Palestinian protesters and pro-Israel protesters.  (Orange County Register via David Crane/AP)

Pro-Palestinian protesters continue to occupy the grounds of the University of California, Los Angeles in front of Royce Hall, Monday, April 29, 2024, in Los Angeles. (Orange County Register via David Crane/AP)

Later, the tent camp was quiet and almost empty. A small group of demonstrators chanted behind the university's locked gates.

Access to the campus was limited to students and essential personnel living in residential buildings, with one access point in and out of the campus. Officers will not enter Columbia's campus without a request from college administration or an immediate emergency, said New York Police Department Chief Jeffrey Madre.

Among the students suspended by Columbia on Tuesday was Mahmoud Khalil, a lead negotiator before talks with the administration broke down over the weekend. His suspension letter — which he shared with The Associated Press — shows he refused to leave the camp after prior warnings. Khalil said he complied with the university's request to vacate the lawn by a Monday afternoon deadline.

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The protesters insisted that they will remain in the hall until the university accepts three demands. Exemption, financial transparency and amnesty.

State troopers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024.  (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

State troopers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

A state trooper pepper sprays protesters at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024.  (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

A state trooper pepper sprays protesters at a pro-Palestinian protest at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024. (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

Ilana Levkovich, a “left-wing Zionist” student at Columbia, said it's been hard to focus in school for weeks amid calls for Zionists to die or leave campus. Levkovich, who identifies as Jewish, said he wishes current pro-Palestinian protests were more open to people like himself who criticize Israel's war policies but believe in the existence of an Israeli state.

“I had an exam yesterday, a final exam yesterday, and the background noise was to say it loud, to say it clearly, we Zionists need to get out of here,” said the neuroscience student at Columbia's Tel Aviv campus. “I have a final exam today and a final exam tomorrow, and I can't go to the library.”

The campus impasse drew concern from the White House. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said President Joe Biden believes the “occupation of the academic building by students is completely the wrong approach” and “not an example of peaceful protest.” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, said there “must be accountability” for the building takeover, “whether it's a disciplinary action by the school or law enforcement.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that “university authorities have the wisdom to properly manage situations like the one we have seen.”

At California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, where protesters occupied two buildings, dozens of police officers carrying helmets and batons marched onto the campus and removed both overnight. The university said 25 people were arrested and there were no injuries. The sweep was broadcast on the Facebook page of KRCR-TV's satellite KAEF-TV until police stopped the reporter.

President Tom Jackson Jr. said in a statement that “no one wanted to see things come to this,” but that “serious crimes beyond the level of a protest continue to put the campus at risk.”

California Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire said the district, which includes the campus, estimated damage at more than $1 million.

Yale officials cleared an encampment Tuesday morning after protesters heeded ultimatums to leave, university officials said. No arrests reported. Demonstrators said on social media that they were moving their crowd to a sidewalk. The camp was set up on Sunday, six days after police arrested nearly 50 people and removed dozens of tents.

Dozens of people were arrested Monday during protests at universities in Texas, Utah, Virginia and New Jersey.

On Tuesday, police cleared the encampment at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and detained about 30 people. Later, the protesters replaced the American flag with the Palestinian flag. The police then hung the American flag again. Interim Chancellor Lee Roberts told reporters that removing the American flag was “antithetical” to the nature of the UNC community. Some students responded by shouting that he was “supporting the genocide of Palestinians”. Classes were canceled on Tuesday.

At the University of Connecticut, police made arrests after protesters refused to remove tents. The downtown campus of Portland State University in Oregon was closed late Monday, where protesters were protesting mostly peacefully until a small group entered the library.

After Hamas launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7, nationwide campus protests began in response to Israel's offensive in Gaza. Militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 250 hostages. Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after vowing to eradicate Hamas, the local health ministry said.

Israel and its supporters have labeled the university protests as anti-Semitic, while Israel's critics say the accusations are used to silence dissent. Although some protesters were caught on camera making anti-Semitic comments or threatening violence, organizers of the protest, some of whom are Jewish, say it is a peaceful movement aimed at defending Palestinian rights and opposing the war.

In a rare move, Northwestern University said it had reached an agreement with students and faculty representing the majority of protesters at its campus near Chicago.

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Mattis reported from Nashville, Tennessee. Associated Press journalists from around the country contributed to this report, including Karen Mathews, Jim Vertuno, Hannah Schoenbaum, Sarah Brumfield, Stefanie Dazio, Christopher Weber, Carolyn Thompson, Dave Collins, Makiya Seminera, Philip Marcelo and Corey Williams.

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This story has been corrected to show that Columbia University has not canceled its major graduation event.

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