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Dozens detained as NYPD breaks up pro-Palestinian protest at Columbia University


By Emma Tucker, Shimon Prokupecz and John Towfighi, CNN

(CNN) — At least 30 people were detained by New York Police Department officers, CNN witnessed, as police entered Columbia University on Thursday to disperse a pro-Palestinian protest that began a day earlier as the university’s president testified before a House committee about the school’s response to antisemitism.

Columbia President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik was in Washington, DC, testifying to the House education committee, as the protesters – including students, faculty and others – gathered in upper Manhattan early Wednesday morning, setting up tents and signs.

Later that afternoon, competing rallies of pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups grew.

Several people waving Palestinian flags had verbal confrontations with police officers, who had begun boxing the protesters in with barricades, CNN affiliate WCBS reported Wednesday. In video from WCBS, pro-Palestinian protesters could be seen clashing with police and some had lit small fires. One woman could be seen being led away in handcuffs.

Four people were arrested overnight during protests at Columbia, the NYPD said. Police did not specify what charges were filed and gave no additional details about the arrests.

Many of the pro-Palestinian protesters camped overnight.

Shafik wrote a letter to the NYPD on Thursday asking for the department’s help to “remove these individuals.”

“The actions of these individuals are in violation of University rules and policies,” the president wrote. “The University provided multiple notices and warnings and informed the encampment participants that they must disperse or face immediate discipline.”

The president on Thursday also told students she authorized the NYPD to break up the encampment, according to an email obtained by CNN. Shafik wrote she authorized the move “out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus.”

“I took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances,” Shafik wrote. “The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies.”

NYPD officers used bullhorns to tell protesters they would be arrested unless they dispersed immediately. Large crowds of Columbia students on the perimeter chanted, “Shame on you” and, “The students united will never be defeated.”

Shortly after 2 p.m., a group of at least 200 protesters moved to an area about two blocks away from the school campus near the NYPD staging site and police said they would soon disperse the crowd, CNN witnessed. Officers in helmets, carrying batons, were seen lining up in the street surrounding the group.

Shafik and the university have been criticized for how their officials have handled antisemitic, Islamophobic and anti-Arab harassment incidents on campus.

Columbia has also faced criticism for hiring a professor who has posted support online for Hamas and other terror groups after the October 7 attack in Israel. That professor was fired on Wednesday.

Video footage online appears to show NYPD officers clashing with protesters outside the university on Thursday morning. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Thursday posted a message on social media warning riders buses in the area are delayed because of a protest at the university.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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