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Police move to arrest protesters at Columbia

                                Members of the NYPD arrest several pro-Palestinian protesters in front of Columbia University in New York, today.
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Members of the NYPD arrest several pro-Palestinian protesters in front of Columbia University in New York, today.

NEW YORK >> The police cleared out a protest at Columbia University this afternoon, arresting dozens of demonstrators who had occupied a lawn on campus and throwing out their tent encampment. The actions came the day after university leaders pledged to Congress that they would crack down on unauthorized student protests tied to the war in the Gaza Strip.

Police officers, clad in riot gear and prepared with zip ties, began taking protesters into custody just before 1:30 p.m., loading them onto buses without resistance as other students chanted “Shame!” Officers removed about 50 tents, but demonstrators later reconstructed at least two of them alongside a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” sign.

The scene was the latest clash in a divide that has embroiled campuses across the country since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel. The tension cost the leaders of Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania their jobs last year after harsh criticism of their testimony to Congress at a hearing on campus antisemitism.

Here’s what else to know:

— By 3:30 p.m., the scene had begun to calm, though many demonstrators and officers remained present. Large crowds had rallied with the encamped protesters overnight, and hundreds more convened in front of Butler Library to call for amnesty for those who had been arrested. “They can threaten us all they want with the police, but at the end of the day, it’s only going to lead to more mobilization,” Maryam Alwan, a senior and pro-Palestinian organizer on campus, had said earlier.

— Jerrold Nadler, the longest-serving Jewish member of the House and a Columbia alumnus, defended his alma mater this afternoon: “Columbia has a right to enforce their own rules,” he said.

— Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, angered some students and professors during her appearance before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Wednesday, when she largely conceded that she felt some of the common chants at pro-Palestinian protests were antisemitic.

— In a letter sent this afternoon as the arrests began, Shafik said she “took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances.” Barnard College officials said they would temporarily restrict access to “certain outdoor spaces.”

— In recent months, Columbia’s leadership has taken action to restrict protests and has disciplined dozens of students who it says have broken the rules. Columbia has hired external security firms and brought the police to campus for the first time in decades.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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