White House Condemns Escalation in Columbia Protests

University says students who took over building will face expulsion
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2024 3:25 PM CDT
Columbia: Students Who Took Over Building Will Face Expulsion
Students with the Gaza Solidarity Encampment block the entrance of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University after taking it over on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 in New York.   (Marco Postigo Storel via AP)

Columbia University says students who took over a campus building early Tuesday will face expulsion. The warning comes a day after the university started suspending students who defied a deadline to leave a pro-Palestinian protest encampment. "We made it very clear yesterday that the work of the University cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violated the rules," university spokesman Ben Chang said in a statement. "Protesters have chosen to escalate to an untenable situation—vandalizing property, breaking doors and windows, and blockading entrances—and we are following through with the consequences we outlined yesterday."

"This is about responding to the actions of the protesters, not their cause," Chang said. The university's public statement department said access to the Manhattan campus has been severely restricted, with only one access point open for essential staff and students who live in dorms. the AP reports. Protesters say they won't leave Hamilton Hall until demands including divestment from Israel have been met. In a statement, they warned administrators against inciting "another Kent or Jackson State by bringing soldiers and police officers with weapons to our campus," reports the Wall Street Journal.

The NYPD said it has officers posted outside the campus but barring an "imminent emergency," they won't enter the property unless there is a request from the university. NBC New York reports that the White House condemned the escalation in a statement Tuesday. "President Biden respects the right to free expression, but protests must be peaceful and lawful," the statement said. "Forcibly taking over buildings is not peaceful—it is wrong." (More Columbia University stories.)

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