Columbia Sends In the N.Y.P.D. to Arrest Protesters in Tent City

For about a day and a half, pro-Palestinian activists at Columbia University set up what they called a “Liberated Zone,” a temporary community with the spirit and values they wished existed on campus always.

It was an impromptu tent village, with more than 50 tents, pitched on a large green lawn just outside the school’s imposing main library. It had a gathering area under a white awning heaped with supplies donated by fellow students. A red spray-painted sign announced its name: “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”

For those hours, living and gathering in the encampment felt purposeful and important, the activists said. A film screening was held after midnight; there was a teach-in. Hundreds of students marched around the encampment to show support.

“It really feels like we’ve taken over the university and made it into the vision that students want it to be, and not what these bigwigs who want to encroach on academic freedom want it to be,” said Maryam Alwan, one of the organizers.

But for Columbia University, the encampment was anything but an Eden. The university’s president, Nemat Shafik, fresh from a congressional hearing in which she had pledged to enforce the university’s rules on protests, tried to get the students to stand down. When they did not, she decided to break with a decades-long norm in the university’s approach to quelling protests.

She gave the police a green light to come in.

“The current encampment violates all of the new policies, severely disrupts campus life, and creates a harassing and intimidating environment for many of our students,” she wrote in a letter to the Columbia community sent around 1:15 p.m. on Thursday.

Back to top button