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Adams, NYPD cite 'global' effort to 'radicalize young people' after 300 arrested at Columbia, CUNY


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New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Police Department (NYPD) leadership cited a "global" movement to "radicalize young people" in announcing approximately 300 arrests at Columbia University and City College that took place overnight. 

"I know that there are those who are attempting to say, well, the majority of people may have been students. You don't have to be the majority to influence and co-opt an operation. That is what this is about. And so, if we want to play the word police, you could do so. I'm going to play the New York City police," Adams said at a press conference. "There is a movement to radicalize young people, and I'm not going to wait until it's done and all of a sudden acknowledge the existence of it. This is a global problem that young people are being influenced by those who are professionals at radicalizing our children. And I'm not going to allow that to happen as the mayor of the city of New York." 

Adams made clear that making arrests at schools and removing those who did not belong on campus is far from the end of the problem.

"We know that this is only a comma in the full sentence of public protection in this city. This is not a celebratory, a moment," Adams said. "We can't create environments while children could be in danger, and we must push back on all attempts to radicalize our young people in this city like we're seeing across the entire globe." 


The day after Columbia University President Minouche Shafik was hauled before the House Education and the Workforce Committee in Washington, D.C., about growing antisemitism at the Ivy League school, Columbia leadership allowed police onto their private campus on April 18 to arrest over 100 people. However, as protesters reorganized and an anti-Israel encampment – involving even some professors who Shafik testified before Congress had been fired or reprimanded over antisemitic remarks praising Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of about 1,200 Jews – persisted for about two weeks, the university president opted to keep police out. 

Shafik instead had administrators attempting negotiations with protest organizers demanding the university "divest" from Israel. That was until demonstrators took over Hamilton Hall. 

Approximately 300 people were arrested at Columbia and nearby City College overnight. Preliminary charges range from trespass to criminal mischief to burglary, police said. 

In an apparent reference to Columbia University locking its gates to keep police out on the sidewalk, NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban held up chains at Wednesday’s press conference. 

"They tried to lock us out. But the NYPD and the people of the city of New York will never be locked out. And we will always work together to keep our city safe," he said, slamming down the chains afterward. 

Over the past week, Columbia leadership acknowledged in discussions with NYPD officials that "outside agitators were on their grounds training and really co-opting this movement," Adams said, and, "at the request of Columbia University," police conducted an operation to "to remove those who have turned the peaceful protest into a place where antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes were pervasive." 

The mayor told reporters that those who broke into Hamilton Hall were "led by individuals who are not affiliated with the university," and Columbia needed the assistance of the NYPD to clear the building and the encampment outside through a "dual operation." 

Recognizing "similar indicators" from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of 2020, the mayor said campus protests involved "external actors with a history of escalating situations and trying to create chaos." 

"Students have a right to protest, and free speech is the cornerstone of our society," Adams said. "But as our major concern, we knew, and we saw that there were those who were never concerned about free speech. They were concerned about chaos. It was about external actors hijacking a peaceful protest and influence students to escalate. There's nothing peaceful about barricading, building, destroying property or dismantling security cameras." 

Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, the NYPD has responded to more than 2,400 protests, about 1,000 of which focused on the situation with Israel and Palestinians, Caban added. 


NYPD Assistant Commissioner Rebecca Weiner cited how a number of individuals who law enforcement know from over the years as being associated with protests in New York City and elsewhere in other cities have been "doing training around the change in tactics." Pointing to the campus organization effort, she referenced how demonstrators wore "Black bloc attire," broke windows, engaged in vandalism and property destruction, barricaded themselves and how "makeshift weapons" were recovered from the encampment. Tactics used by anti-Israel agitators also included "fomenting chaos" and "squatting." 

"That change in tactics combined with the presence of known individuals on campus in the lead up to what happened in Hamilton Hall is why we had a real elevated concern around public safety," she said, turning to why officers needed protective gear. "When you're going into a situation that you don't fully understand what might greet you on the other side of the door. So this is important, and it is not just a New York City issue. It's obviously not just a Columbia issue. We saw it spread to CCNY last night, but this is unfolding across the country and in Europe as well. So this is a challenge we're all going to be dealing with for some time." 

Adams said the NYPD "cannot get caught up on what’s the political correct terminology" and instead must focus on public safety and removing "individuals on campus who should not have been there."

"We saw evidence of training. We saw a shift in tactics that were being used," Adams said. "And when you start using the intelligence that intel was able to supply, we knew it was time to communicate directly with the school and say, you have more than a peaceful protest on your hands." 

NYPD officials praised the officers’ professionalism, saying that an "overwhelming majority" of those approximately 300 arrests happened without any injuries or serious scuffles with police. 

Adams also blasted how protesters took down the American flag and erected a Palestinian flag at campuses. 

"That's our flag folks. Don't take over our buildings and put another flag up," the mayor said. "That may be fine to other people, but it's not to me. My uncle died defending this country and these men and women put their lives on the line and it's despicable that schools will allow another country's flag to fly in our country. So blame me for being proud to be an American. And I thank, Commissioner [Kaz] Daughtry, for putting that flag back up. We're not surrendering our way of life to anyone." 

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