Columbia Students ignore Deadline to Dissolve Pro-Palestinian Camp

Columbia students defy deadline to disband pro-Palestinian encampment

New York City’s Columbia University has begun suspending students involved in a pro-Palestinian protest on campus after they defied a deadline to disperse.

College leaders earlier warned those who failed to disband from the two-week encampment by 14:00 EST (18:00 GMT) on Monday would face disciplinary action.

But as the deadline passed, dozens of students rallied at the site.

In Texas, police arrested dozens of protesters and dismantled their camp at the University of Texas at Austin.

Protesters had disregarded orders to pull down their tents, according to local officials.

“Baseball-size rocks” were discovered in the camp, according to a statement released by the college, and the “majority of protesters are believed to be unaffiliated with the university”.

About fifty arrests had been made at the Austin campus on Monday, according to George Lobb, a lawyer who has represented the demonstrators. The university and the local police have been approached by the BBC for comments.

Since authorities took up another camp at Columbia last month, similar protests have happened all around the United States.

There has been increasing pressure on Columbia’s administration, a prestigious Ivy League university in Upper Manhattan, to take action or resign.

Speaking on X, formerly Twitter, US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said, “What continues to transpire at Columbia is an utter disgrace.” “The campus is being overrun by antisemitic students and faculty alike.”

The Louisiana Republican demanded once more that Nemat Shafik, the university’s president, resign.

The Columbia board of trustees was urged to step down earlier on Monday by a group of House Democrats if the board did not “act decisively, disband the encampment, and ensure the safety and security of all of its students”.

“For the past week, this encampment has been the breeding ground for antisemitic attacks on Jewish students,” the twenty-one parliamentarians wrote. “The time for negotiation is over; the time for action is now.”

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For undergraduates, the annual cost of tuition and fees at Columbia comes to approximately $90,000 (£72,000), making it one of the priciest colleges in the United States.

Its campus has emerged as a focal point for national discourse on issues such as US support for Israel, the Gaza War, and concerns over antisemitism endangering Jewish students.

More than a hundred students were taken into custody as police broke up a pro-Palestinian camp in the middle of campus on April 18.

However, protestors intensified their efforts, gathering into yet another camp and pressuring university administration to switch to hybrid instruction.

The university informed students that it had no intentions to send back police “at this time” and refuted claims over the weekend that there would be “an impending lockdown or evictions on campus”.

In a statement released early on Monday, Dr. Shafik stated that “since Wednesday, a small group of academic leaders has been in constructive dialogues with student organisers to find a path that would result in the dismantling of the encampment”.

“Regretfully, we were not able to come to an agreement,” she stated.

The college forewarned the camp organisers that it “will need to initiate disciplinary procedures because of a number of violations of university policies” in a letter that was distributed to them.

Students were told they may finish their semesters provided they voluntarily left the protest by 14:00 local time.

The university’s vice-president of public relations announced several hours after the deadline had passed that they had started suspending students, temporarily removing them from campus, and that those who were supposed to graduate were no longer able to do so.

The sanctions are being implemented, according to university officials, in part to prevent any interference with the graduation celebrations on May 15.

One of the primary protest organisations, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, encouraged activists to “protect the encampment” and pledged to ignore the injunction in a post on X.

The group of tents on the Morningside campus stayed put after the afternoon deadline passed.

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Supporters of the students marched around the location, some of them beating drums and shouting “Revolution!”

According to protesters, it is “highly probable” that police will be brought in once more to dismantle the encampment, according to Mahmoud Khalil, one of the students who has been negotiating with Columbia officials, who spoke with the BBC.

“The students are here,” Mr. Khalil continued, identifying himself as a Syrian-born Palestinian refugee. “They are holding their ground.”

Many of them covered their faces, telling the BBC that they were afraid of being identified and being accused of something.

However, the institution stated that it had already identified a number of participants in its letter from Monday.

At the encampment’s entrance stood a human chain made up of faculty and staff members wearing orange and yellow vests, interlocking their arms to barricade admittance.

Police on campus were observed erecting barricades and holding zip ties, but they stayed on standby, seemingly uninvited to attempt an eviction or make an arrest.

Similar student protests across the nation have been triggered by the event at Columbia, as administrations are unsure of how to react.

The BBC keeps tabs on demonstrations and university encampments in Washington, DC, and at least 22 additional states.

On Sunday night, Virginia Tech police detained 91 persons for trespassing; 54 of them are current students.

Monday saw arrests at the University of Georgia as well. A “first set of immediate temporary suspensions” were implemented on Monday at upstate New York’s Cornell University, the college announced in a statement.

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Tensions remained high at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) following an altercation between competing groups that broke down a barrier separating them.

Numerous student demonstrators, who have been calling for a halt to hostilities between Israel and Gaza for months, are demanding that the universities they attend stop providing any financial support to Israel.

Dr. Shafik stated in her statement on Monday that Columbia “will not divest from Israel” even if the university intends to investigate a number of options to allay student worries.

Jewish students have expressed concerns about their safety on campus in the wake of reported instances of hate speech, harassment, and violent threats by certain participants.

Republican representative Elise Stefanik of New York said, “The world is watching as you continue to fail your Jewish students.” She charged Columbia with “weak leadership and empty threats.”

Several Republicans, including as the former president Donald Trump, have drawn attention to antisemitic acts and shouts during the demonstrations.

Regarding the campus protests, the White House is trying to strike a balance between the right to peaceful protest and the denunciation of hate speech by treading a thin line.

“We understand that this is a difficult time,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated.

She added, declining to suggest how university administration had to behave, that “free expression has to be done within the law.”

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