How cops cleared New York City encampments

Columbia University is an Ivy League school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, founded in 1754. Its current tuition is $32,670 a semester. The City College of New York (CCNY) is a public university, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system of 25 institutions, that is about a mile north of Columbia and was founded in 1847. Its current tuition for New York residents is $3,465 a semester.

Both Columbia and CCNY have rightfully deserved reputations regarding political activity. An encampment that Columbia protesters began early in the morning of April 17 became the spark for more than 100 similar encampments and protests throughout the United States that demanded divestment from Israel and Israel-linked corporations.

Columbia’s radio station, WKCR, played an important role in explaining and motivating the encampments. Its news team of 15 to 20 members knew how to record, use and remotely transmit interviews and reports on what was happening. It also has a countrywide and even international audience for its jazz and “new music,” which appreciated the unvarnished news.

The occupation of Hamilton Hall on Columbia’s campus in 1968 was a major milestone in the student struggles against the Vietnam war. The occupation of the same building on April 29 of this year by Gaza solidarity protesters was a major escalation in the struggle against Columbia’s support for genocide.

The brutality of the cops when they cleared the building that Tuesday night, April 30, pushing protesters to the ground, slamming them with metal barricades, using flash-bang grenades, batons and pepper spray and drawing their guns – was part of what had to be a programmed, countrywide police response. The police arrested 189 people in this incident. (

Encampment at CCNY

The encampment at CCNY began on April 18, a day after the one at Columbia was set up. CCNY is an open campus, meaning you don’t need a CUNY ID to enter the campus, just the buildings. It is clear from videos circulating on the Internet which show cops attacking protesters that CCNY is in Harlem and was drawing support from this connection.

College administrators called in cops to stifle messages such as the five demands of the CUNY encampment at City College, New York, April 25. (WW photo: Brenda Ryan)

Even before they had finished with their mass arrests at Columbia, the cops sent significant numbers a mile or so north to CCNY. When they had what they considered enough force, they started to sweep the CCNY campus, arresting 179 people both on and off the campus. (Columbia Spectator, May 1)

According to a May 1 morning press release posted to the CUNY “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” Instagram, the New York Police Department sweep resulted in multiple injuries.

“Police broke the ankle of an undergraduate student, broke the teeth of two protesters, attacked and burned many students, faculty and at least one journalist with pepper spray at close range, and beat many more with batons,” the news site City News reported.

When students, heartsick over genocide occurring before their eyes, confront established state policy, they get treated with the same police brutality, similar to their counterparts in Gaza.

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