By Amy Goodman / Democracy Now!

New York police in full riot gear stormed Columbia University and the City College of New York Tuesday night, arresting over 300 students to break up Gaza solidarity encampments on the two campuses. The police raid began at the request of Columbia President Minouche Shafik, who has also asked the police to remain a presence on campus until at least May 17 to ensure solidarity encampments are not reestablished before the end of the term. Police also raided CUNY after the administration made a similar call for the police to enter campus. Democracy Now! was on the streets outside Columbia on Tuesday night and spoke with people who were out in support of the student protests as police were making arrests. We also speak with two Columbia University students who witnessed the police crackdown. “When the police arrived, they were extremely efficient in removing all eyewitnesses, including legal observers,” says journalism student Gillian Goodman, who has been covering the protests for weeks and who says she and others slept on campus in order to be able to continue coverage and avoid being locked out. We also hear from Cameron Jones, a Columbia College student with Jewish Voice for Peace, who responds to claims of antisemitism, saying, “There is a large anti-Zionist Jewish voice on campus, and it’s also important to recognize the difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.”

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of students at Columbia University and City University of New York were arrested last night after hundreds of police officers, carrying shields and in full riot gear, raided Columbia to break up a Gaza Solidarity Encampment set up almost two weeks ago that has inspired similar encampments in over 40 universities across the country, including CUNY. Students at Columbia took over Hamilton Hall a day earlier, after the school began suspending students who refused to leave the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. Students renamed the building Hind’s Hall in honor of Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl killed by the Israeli military in Gaza.

The police raid began after Columbia University President Minouche Shafik sent a letter to the New York City Police Department calling for the encampment and Hamilton Hall to be cleared. She wrote, quote, “I have determined that the building occupation, the encampments, and related disruptions pose a clear and present danger to persons, property, and the substantial functioning of the University,” unquote. President Shafik also asked the police to remain a presence on campus until at least May 17 — two days after graduation — to ensure, she said, that solidarity encampments are not reestablished. Columbia’s graduation is scheduled for May 15th.

Hundreds of officers entered the campus through the main gates and encircled the encampment inside last night. Police also pulled a truck outside Hamilton Hall, extended a ladder to a second-story window for a stream of officers to climb into the building.

Further uptown from Columbia, at the City College of New York, police in riot gear raided the Gaza solidarity encampment after the administration made a similar call for the police to enter campus. Scores of students and CUNY community members were arrested. Overnight, the department shared a video on social media showing officers lowering a Palestinian flag atop the city college flagpole, balling it up and throwing it to the ground before raising the American flag.

Over the past two weeks, police have swept through other campuses holding peaceful Gaza solidarity encampments across the country. Over 1,200 students and others have been arrested.

In moment, we’ll be joined by two Columbia University students who were on campus during the police raid. But first, Democracy Now! was on the streets last night outside Columbia.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! We’re standing at 113th and Broadway. It’s about 10:30 at night. The riot police have lined up here, and it is a complete frozen zone from here up to Columbia University. We understand that they’ve moved in on Hamilton Hall, that the students have occupied. And we understand arrests are underway, though we haven’t seen it. There was a group of protesters here, but they say they’re going to do jail support. They’re going down to 1 Police Plaza. Let’s see if we can find them and ask them why they’re out here.

PROTESTERS: Palestine will never fall! From the sea to the river!

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name?

JEANNIE JAY PARK: I’m Jeannie. I am an organizer with Warriors in the Garden. I am a first-generation Korean American. I am a shamed alumni of NYU. We are out here as people whose ethnic roots originate in the Global South to stand against settler colonialism, because no matter how it looks, in every form, it kills, and we will not be complicit anymore. And this is a very historic moment, where our youth in our country are leading the revolution. And it is all of our responsibilities to not put that — to not just be like, “Oh, they’re so brave,” but to be in — to have that incite something within us.

PROTESTERS: Say it clear! Say it loud! Say it clear! Say it loud! Gaza, you make us proud! Gaza, you make us proud! Gaza, you make us proud! Gaza, you make us proud!

SAM: My name is Sam. I’m an organizer, and I’m here to show support for the students. I think that I’ve been a — I’ve been pro-Palestinian my whole life, as is my family. I’m Iranian. And we have always found the liberation of Palestinian people to be essential to our liberation as Iranians and everybody’s, you know, collective liberation.

PROTESTERS: Why are you in riot gear? Why are you in riot gear? Move, cops! Get out the way! Move, cops! Get out the way! Free, free Palestine! Free, free Palestine! Free, free, free Palestine! Free, free, free Palestine!

AMY GOODMAN: We’re standing at Amsterdam and 113th Street. It’s about 10:30, 11:00 at night. Why are you here?

BROWN ALUMNUS: So, I’m a Brown University alum. And as you know, one of our own, Hisham Awartani, was shot. And also, I have a Palestinian friend who told me that for his — for speaking out on Palestine, he’s been doxxed, I mean, and he’s been kicked off campus. He’s lost his housing and food, and he has no family here. But he feels the need to speak on it, because his cousins and family members are under the rubble right now, and he can’t reach a lot of his cousins. And so, knowing that, you know, there’s not a lot of degree of separation between Hisham and I and our other colleague that also lost family members and has been doxxed and kicked off campus, this is the least that we can do to support our friends.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this why you’re wearing a mask even though we’re outside?

BROWN ALUMNUS: Absolutely. And we’re not wearing a mask because we’re scared, but we’re doing this because this is what our predecessors have told us this is the right way to protest. And this is what we need to do to protect ourselves while also speaking and standing up for what’s true.

AMY GOODMAN: So, I understand there’s an encampment at Brown, too. And there’s a slogan: “From Columbia to Brown, we won’t let Gaza down.”

BROWN ALUMNUS: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you heard the latest from there?

BROWN ALUMNUS: So, today, actually, Brown University passed a resolution, in order to compromise with the students’ encampments, that they’re going to vote in October on divestment. So, I think that’s a big victory for the student encampments, for the 41 students who were arrested, and also for the students who were doing the hunger strike, as you may know. So, yeah, the vote — the agreeing to vote on divestment is a big step for the student organizers, and they’re very proud of it. And I think that’s the least we can do as alum to support them.

PROTESTERS: Divest! We will not stop! We will not rest! Disclose!

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve just spoken to some people who are supporting the students now. The bus of arrested students is coming through.

POLICE OFFICER 1: Back up!

AMY GOODMAN: Are these the buses of students?

POLICE OFFICER 1: The buses are coming up. Please back up. Please back up.

AMY GOODMAN: These are the arrested students?

POLICE OFFICER 1: Please back up. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Are they buses of the arrested students?

POLICE OFFICER 1: I’m not sure who’s in the buses. I know the buses are leaving. Please back up.

SUPPORTERS: You make us proud! You make us proud! You make us proud! Students, you make us proud! Students, you make us proud! Students, you make us proud! Students, you make us proud!

POLICE OFFICER 2: Back up!

PROTESTER 1: Stop! Stop!

AMY GOODMAN: Watch out.

POLICE OFFICER 2: Back up! Back up! Back up!

AMY GOODMAN: OK. There looks — seems to be an arrest right now. The police have moved in, and they’re on top of someone. The police have arrested someone. People are shouting “Shame!” He’s on the ground.

PROTESTER 2: Get off of him! Get off of him! Get off of him!

PROTESTER 3: What are you going to do? Are you going to arrest me? [inaudible]

POLICE OFFICER 3: Back up! Back up! Back up!

POLICE OFFICER 4: Back up!

POLICE OFFICER 3: Back up!

POLICE OFFICER 4: Back up! Back up! Let’s go! Move! Move!

POLICE OFFICER 3: Back up!

POLICE OFFICER 4: Back up! Back up!

POLICE OFFICER 3: Back up!

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name?

POLICE OFFICER 4: Back up! Back up!

AMY GOODMAN: What’s your name?

AMY GOODMAN: Over 230 students were arrested at and around Columbia, dozens more arrested at City College just 20 blocks further north.

When we come back, we’ll be joined by two Columbia University students who were on campus last night, and we’ll hear from our own Juan González. Fifty-six years ago yesterday, police raided Hamilton Hall. He was one of the leaders of the students at Columbia, one of the leaders of the revolt. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “People Have the Power” by Patti Smith. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in New York, joined by Juan González in Chicago.

Over 230 students and their allies were arrested at Columbia University last night when the Columbia president OK’d the presence of the New York Police Department and their raid of the university. Dozens of others were arrested just 20 blocks north at City College.

For more on the police raid at Columbia, we’re joined by two guests. Cameron Jones is a Columbia student with Jewish Voice for Peace. He was outside Hamilton Hall when police pushed everyone into nearby buildings and stormed the hall. Cameron is a 19-year-old urban studies major. He’s joining us here in studio. And Gillian Goodman is with us, a student at Columbia Journalism School covering Columbia’s ongoing student protests since the first days of the encampments. She joins us via video stream.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Gillian Goodman — no relation that we know of — Gillian, why don’t you describe what happened on campus? I mean, what’s really fascinating here is that Columbia J School, the Journalism School, overlooks the police raid. And in fact, Columbia journalism students and other students who were covering this event were told by police they’d be arrested if they didn’t stay inside. Gillian, thanks so much for joining us.

GILLIAN GOODMAN: Absolutely happy to be here.

That’s correct, Amy. And, in fact, the only reason that we were able to have access to campus, many of us in the Journalism School, is that we had slept in the building the night before. They had restricted campus to only those students in residential dorms. So, the only reason we were able to witness what we were able to witness is because we had stayed in the building.

When police arrived, they were extremely efficient in removing all eyewitnesses, including legal observers. Myself and my colleagues at the Journalism School were pushed with police batons to our backs and corralled out of the space, so we were not able to witness the arrests head on. But some journalism students were able to remain in the building to overlook the side of Hamilton Hall. But they were extremely clear and efficient that they were not to have any eyewitnesses, including the majority of press, during the time that the arrests were made.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Gillian, was there any warning beforehand or any sense that the arrests were coming?

GILLIAN GOODMAN: There had been a sense for a few hours as police gathered outside. I would say that no one knew the exact moment they were going to come in, but we knew pretty clearly within about a 30-minute window. I think there was a tremendous sense of trepidation, but also resolve, on campus that I saw from a lot of the organizers. We were also served an emergency alert from emergency management that went throughout to all Columbia students, issuing a shelter-in-place warning in the hour before the arrests happened. And so most students were corralled into their dorm by campus safety, and that was our tell that the arrests were imminent.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We’re also joined by Cameron Jones of Jewish Voices for Peace. Cameron, what did you see last night?

CAMERON JONES: Yeah. So, I was also one of the students who was forced into a nearby building once the police arrived on the scene. And it was very clear that the university and the police did not want any witnesses to the police brutality that was going to take place. They even pushed medics and legal observers into nearby buildings, preventing them from doing their jobs.

And then we got a slew of footage from onlookers that protesters were pushed and shoved, individuals were thrown downstairs. One individual was left unconscious for a few minutes. There was also the police using Tasers on peaceful protesters and also using a smoke bomb inside occupied Hind Hall. So, it’s very clear that the police used very aggressive and very violent tactics to suppress peaceful protesters.

AMY GOODMAN: And what about you? You were outside. You didn’t occupy Hamilton Hall. You were at the encampment. Do you face suspension?

CAMERON JONES: As of now, I am not sure what the university will do. Unfortunately, the university has arbitrarily suspended dozens of students already, so I would not be surprised if I do end up facing suspension, unfortunately.

AMY GOODMAN: The response of the students to the president, although on Friday saying she would not call New York police on campus, calling in those police who raided Hamilton Hall last night?

CAMERON JONES: Yeah. So, the president is definitely acting in bad faith, I would say. She really seems to be doing anything in her power to suppress student activism on campus, and that includes bringing in violent police to violently arrest hundreds of people. And it really appears as though the president has not learned her lesson from arresting people a few weeks ago, because the students only come back with more fury and with more intensity in regards to our activism.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Cameron, I wanted to ask you about the role of the faculty. Many of the faculty condemned the last raid, or the first raid that occurred a couple of weeks ago. Were there faculty out there trying to interpose themselves between the students and the police this time?

CAMERON JONES: I did not see a substantial faculty presence, but we have had faculty very present at the encampment acting as security, and we have widespread faculty support in terms of our opinions towards the administration. Faculty is on our side in condemning what the administration has been doing.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Gillian Goodman, you have both President Shafik and New York City Mayor Adams painting the takeover of Hamilton Hall as a takeover by outside agitators. What was your sense of who was inside Hamilton Hall?

GILLIAN GOODMAN: Yes. So, I was there the night that the occupation occurred. There’s no way to know exactly who was involved, but I know firsthand that there is a large student presence. And also the thing that surprised me the most was a massive student support outside. There was a human chain, linked arm in arm, to protect the building that was 200 students strong, and those are people that I know to be students of Columbia and Barnard in the large majority. So I think that mostly this is an effort by administration to distance these actions from the students, though I know that they are deeply resolved and in support.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask Cameron Jones — a Columbia student has sued Columbia for creating a hostile environment against Jews. You’re with Jewish Voice for Peace. I want to turn right now to a clip. This is Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson facing heckling and boos when he came to Columbia University a few days ago calling for President Biden to call in the National Guard to bring order to the campus, where the students set up the encampment last week. He also called for Columbia President Minouche Shafik to step down. Columbia students criticized Johnson’s visit.

SPEAKER MIKE JOHNSON: I am here today joining my colleagues in calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos. As speaker of the House, I am committing today that the Congress will not be silent as Jewish students are expected to run for their lives and stay home from their classes, hiding in fear.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk about that as a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, Cameron?

CAMERON JONES: Yeah. So, I think, as a Jewish student on campus who represents a group of dozens of Jewish individuals, I would like to note that Jewish students have been part of the protest movement on campus since October. And there have been dozens of Jewish students who have been arrested for pro-Palestine demonstrations. So I think it’s really important to recognize that there is a large anti-Zionist Jewish voice on campus, and it’s also important to recognize the difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Anti-Zionism is a political ideology, while antisemitism is in regards to Judaism, which is a culture and a religion. And it’s important to know the distinction between the two. And I think oftentimes in the mainstream media and on campus, there is a conflation of the two.

And it’s really important to recognize that there has been an intense amount of hostility towards pro-Palestine protesters on campus. We have faced harassment. We have faced physical and verbal intimidation. I myself have been doxxed and have faced death threats online. I have been harassed on campus by multiple individuals.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you mean by “doxxed.”

CAMERON JONES: Yeah. So, I’ve had my personal information published online, including pictures, social media, my LinkedIn profile, etc., in which people can message me death threats and email me horrible information. And the university has done nothing to protect pro-Palestine voices and has been really cracking down on anyone who is standing up for Palestinian rights. And this really just shows how Columbia University is using similar tactics that the apartheid state of Israel is using to crack down on Palestinians in occupied Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there, but I do want to ask Gillian Goodman — the president of Columbia — the president of Barnard has already had an overwhelming no-confidence vote by the faculty. President of Columbia says she has asked the police to maintain a presence on campus through May 17th, two days after graduation. What are you expecting, as we saw yesterday the campus almost completely shut down? Professors had their IDs canceled. Students couldn’t, unless they lived right there on the campus, get in.

GILLIAN GOODMAN: Yes, I think those actions shattered a sense that there is free and open access to our own resources on our own campus, the ways that they were really effectively able to bar anyone from that. I think there’s really profound disappointment and anger coming from Shafik’s decision to retain a police presence on campus, as that has consistently been an ask, I think, from all sides, is to remove the police presence. And that is often what creates a threat and intimidation of violence, much more so than the protests on campus. I watched the police at around 2 a.m. load the encampment into a trash-compacting dumpster, and I watched the community guidelines get crushed. And I think that, to me, was the perfect moment of seeing what that effect can be of having that police presence on campus.

AMY GOODMAN: Gillian Goodman, a Columbia Journalism School student covering Columbia’s ongoing student protests since the first days of the encampments, and Cameron Jones, Columbia College student with Jewish Voice for Peace, we thank you so much for being with us.


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Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on more than 1,100 public television and radio stations worldwide. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its “Pick of the Podcasts,” along with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

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