Pro-Hamas protesters occupy Columbia faculty building, hold hostage

After escaping protesters occupying the building, a worker said, ‘They held me hostage!’

By Israel Hayom via JNS

Anti-Israel protests have reached a boiling point at Columbia University, where pro-Palestinian protesters have barricaded themselves inside Hamilton Hall while briefly holding at least one university staff member hostage, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator.

The protesters stormed the building early on Tuesday as part of broader demonstrations against Israel’s military operations in Gaza, using metal gates to block the doors, positioning wooden tables and chairs as obstructions in front of entrances, and securing some doors shut with zip ties. Hamilton Hall houses key administrative offices such as the Columbia College Dean’s Office, Admissions and the Core Curriculum program.

The takeover of Hamilton Hall occurred nearly two weeks after University President Minouche Shafik on Apr. 18 gave approval for the New York Police Department to dismantle the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”

That police operation resulted in the largest mass arrest on campus since 1968, when more than 80 people were arrested inside an occupied Hamilton Hall, with a total of over 700 students taken into custody.

Amid the latest escalation, a university Facilities staff member, held inside Hamilton Hall against his will, managed to exit the building around 12:40 a.m. after confronting the occupying protesters in the lobby and demanding they let him leave. As he departed, the worker struck someone’s camera and shouted angrily at the crowd, saying, “They held me hostage.”

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By nightfall, the crowd amassed outside Hamilton Hall had grown to the hundreds, chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Palestine will live forever,” as protesters on the Hamilton balcony unfurled a banner bearing the words “Hind’s Hall”—a reference to 6-year-old Hind Rajab, who was allegedly killed by Israeli military forces in Gaza. “We will honor all the martyrs, all the parents, mothers, fathers,” the protesters chanted defiantly.

Those occupying the balcony then led the crowd outside in a series of call-and-response chants, with slogans such as “Columbia, you will see, Palestine is almost free” and “This building is now liberated” echoing into the night, followed by another banner that was draped prominently across the building’s facade with just one provocative word, “Intifada,” the Arabic term used to describe a rebellion against Israel in the form of terrorism.

The occupying protestors announced their intention to maintain control of Hamilton until “Columbia meets every one of our demands.”

Columbia had imposed a deadline of 2 p.m. on Monday for the encampment to be dismantled, but students who spoke to the local affiliate of CBS News said they were not going to move. They were previously warned in a university letter that they would be suspended if they did not vacate the encampment by the afternoon deadline.

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The letter from the officials also stated that student protesters needed to identify themselves and pledge to follow university policies through the next school year to finish in good standing.

Protesters have been demanding that Columbia University divest from companies doing business with Israel, which the administration will not do, according to a statement released by Shafik on Monday.

Jewish students filed a class-action lawsuit against Columbia on Monday, saying that the university has failed to ensure their safety and violated their civil rights, citing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Jewish students demand that the university ban student protesters and outside agitators inciting violence.

Other campuses across the U.S. have seen similar anti-Israel encampments in recent weeks, that have at times crossed into antisemitic rhetoric and outright violence.

At George Washington University in D.C., anti-Israel protesters vandalized the statue of the university’s namesake and the country’s first president with Palestinian graffiti, PLO flags and other symbols.

Protesters who returned to the University of Texas at Austin on Monday after the encampment was dismantled last week were again greeted by state troopers, who along with campus and local police made at least 43 arrests.

Originally published by Israel Hayom