Police arrest 100 at Columbia University's pro-Palestinian encampment

Earlier in March, protesters responded to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Washington Square Park in New York City. Many university campuses also have seen demonstrations because of the conflict, including at Columbia University, where police on Thursday arrested more than 100 protesters. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

April 18 (UPI) -- Police on Thursday arrested more than 100 protesters at Columbia University for refusing to leave a large pro-Palestinian protest encampment on campus, police said.

The protesters ignored repeated warnings from the school's president that police would be called if they did not leave.

The protesters, some of whom were carried away, were boarded onto NYPD buses. Police arrived at the Morningside Heights campus at about 1 p.m. Thursday wearing body armor and face shields.

"I applaud the cops. They are doing the right thing," one 20-year-old Columbia student, who didn't want to be named, told The New York Post. "We don't feel safe. We fear for our lives."

"Remember who started this? Hamas, that terrorist group," he added. "We pay a lot of money to come here and we should feel safe and protected."

Demonstrators in support of the encampments surrounded police vehicles to temporarily block them from leaving the scene.

Columbia President Nemat "Minouche" Shafik announced she "authorized" the NYPD to crack down on the encampment.

Dozens of students erected the encampment Wednesday morning. The university warned them to remove their tents by 9 p.m. that night or risk suspensions from the school.

As of 2:30 p.m. Thursday local time, about 100 protesters were believed to be in custody, police said.

Upon entering the campus, police warned the students they would be arrested if they did not disperse. They followed through on those threats, detaining protetsers with zip ties. Some protestors sat peacefully during the arrests, which prompted onlookers to yell at police to "stand down."

"Shame, shame, shame!" some on the crowd chanted, as others yelled, "Let them go!"

The NYPD moved to block off 114th and 115th Streets, which are south of the schools' main entrance, shortly before they entered that section of the campus.

Shafik had emailed students, faculty and staff saying she'd requested the NYPD's assistance -- despite what she said were her hopes that the move would "never be necessary."

"We also tried through a number of channels to engage with their concerns and offered to continue discussions if they agreed to disperse," Shafik said in her email.

"I regret that all of these attempts to resolve the situation were rejected by the students involved."

Demonstrations against Israel's response to the October Hamas surprise attack also has swept other U.S. campuses.

Rep. Ilhan Omar's daughter said she was suspended Thursday by Barnard College after refusing to leave the the encampment. Barnard is a college associated with Columbia.

Isra Hirsi, 21, said she was told that she and at least two other students were suspended for what she called "standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide," which was part of a social media post.

"i'm an organizer with CU Apartheid Divest @ColumbiaSJP, in my 3 years at @BarnardCollege i have never been reprimanded or received any disciplinary warnings i just received notice that i am 1 of 3 students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide," she wrote.

Hirsi is an organizer with a student group that advocates for Palestinians at the New York City school.

Barnard confirmed that it had temporarily suspended some Columbia and Barnard students who refused multiple written and verbal requests to leave the unauthorized encampment.

The school did not say how many students were suspended but added that it would continue to suspend students who do not leave the unauthorized encampment.