Authorities in New York City are currently looking into an incident at Columbia University where pro-Palestine demonstrators have reported being targeted with a noxious substance.
The incident is being treated as a potential hate crime and is under investigation by the police.
An incident occurred on Friday during a pro-Palestine march on campus.
Several students experienced symptoms such as vomiting and headaches, prompting them to seek medical attention.
Columbia University has taken action by banning the suspected perpetrators from campus while the police conduct their investigation.
In an email sent to faculty and students on Monday, Columbia’s Provost Dennis Mitchell expressed his concern over the attack, describing it as “deeply troubling”.
“We strongly denounce any threats or acts of violence targeted at individuals within our community,” he stated.
“The University is dedicated to promptly addressing any such cases in collaboration with the relevant authorities.”
A protest occurred at the front steps of Columbia’s Low Library, despite not being sanctioned by the university.
As reported by The Spectator, Columbia University’s campus newspaper, a group of students at the university noticed a strong and unpleasant smell, similar to sewage.
Several individuals experienced physical symptoms such as nausea and irritation in their eyes, along with harm to their personal possessions.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) has confirmed that it is currently investigating several reports linked to the march.
According to a statement given to BBC, the NYPD has reported that a 24-year-old woman complained of smelling an unfamiliar odour and subsequently felt sick with a burning sensation in her eyes. Since then, the police have received five more reports, according to their statement.
The NYPD stated that there have been no arrests made and the investigation is still ongoing.
Months of tension have been building on Columbia University’s campus and others across the country due to the ongoing conflict between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel students. This tension has been particularly heightened since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war on 7 October.
In October, a 19-year-old former student of Columbia University was charged in an assault on an Israeli student who was putting up posters of hostages held by Hamas.
Students with pro-Palestinian views on campus have also experienced online harassment and public targeting. They were subjected to a distressing incident where a truck displayed their faces and names, falsely labelling them as antisemites.
In November, Columbia University took action to address tensions on campus by suspending two student groups – Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voices for Peace.
The groups have strongly objected to the suspensions, arguing that they are unfair, and have persisted in organizing rallies using alternative names.