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Campus protests turn violent at UCLA, Columbia

Pro-Palestine student activists face off with New York Police Department officers during a raid on Columbia University's campus at the request of Columbia University President Minouche Shafik on Tuesday evening, April 30, 2024 in New York. Seyma Bayram via The Associated Press

Campus protests turn violent at UCLA, Columbia

Violence broke out early Wednesday morning on the UCLA campus as pro-Israel protesters clashed with pro-Palestinian demonstrators. Footage posted by demonstrators appears to show protesters tearing down barricades surrounding the pro-Palestinian encampment and shooting fireworks inside. Demonstrators on both sides began kicking, shoving, and wrestling each other to the ground. Protesters also started beating each other with what appear to be metal rods, wood boards, and other makeshift weapons, according to footage posted by ABC7 in southern California. Phone lights and camera shutters illuminated the mob before police in riot gear intervened at the university’s request. Administrators canceled all Wednesday classes in response to the violence.

Before violence erupted, peaceful Native American protesters picketed in support of Jewish students near the pro-Palestine encampment. Footage shows a small group holding signs reading “Hamas supporters are not welcome on Native Land” with native music playing on loudspeakers.

What about Columbia University? The New York Police Department was called to intervene on the campuses of Columbia University and City College of New York on Tuesday night. Nearly 300 people were arrested between both campuses, including students and outside agitators, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday morning. Pro-Palestinian protesters barricaded themselves inside Columbia’s Hamilton Hall on Tuesday. The NYPD removed protesters from the building and deconstructed the unauthorized pro-Palestinian encampment at University President Minouche Shafik’s request. Students and outside activists breaking doors, mistreating safety officers, and damaging property are acts of destruction and not political speech, Shafik said in a statement. She condemned the rise in anti-Semitism on campus and defended her decision to call in the police by reiterating her responsibility to keep the campus safe.

Other protesters clashed with police outside the gates of City College just blocks away from Columbia the same night. Officers barricaded the college’s front gate at the faculty’s request. Arrests were made as protesters turned aggressive. Footage shows police informing protesters that administrators ordered trespassers to disperse. Protesters were also seen shoving against police barricades while chanting and pointing flares at officers, according to a video posted by individuals on the scene. Bottles, garbage cans, and other items were thrown at police officers, Mayor Adams said. Demonstrators also replaced the campus American flag with a Palestinian one. Adams commended officers who pulled the foreign flag down and re-hung the American flag.

They tore down the American flag? Protesters across the country have begun tearing down American flags and hanging the Palestinian flag. Protesters at George Washington University draped a Palestinian flag over a statue of the school’s namesake. Demonstrators at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill also hung the Palestine flag in place of the American flag. A group of students later surrounded the flag pole to prevent protesters from again tearing down the colors.

Dig deeper: Read my report in The Sift on the rise in pro-Palestinian protests across the U.S. and internationally.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

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