Anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University gathered Friday to demand divestment from Israel, a “reform” of the campus police department, and to threaten a withholding of tuition payments if they don’t get their way.
The demonstration was organized by the unofficial student group Columbia University Apartheid Divest, a coalition of about 80 groups created after Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace were suspended in early November, the Columbia Spectator reports.
Previously, the coalition had disrupted a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at which members held signs stating “Joy is Canceled.”
Along with the Barnard-Columbia Abolition Collective and Student-Worker Solidarity, the coalition also called for a boycott of Friday’s “Day of Dialogue” at Barnard College which was designed to “address challenges,” “promote respectful dialogue” and “affirm commitment to being an inclusive community.”
According to the SJP and BCAC, the Day of Dialogue “featured scholars of Islamophobia [and] Israel studies,” and they complained “it is unbelievable to expect students to want to come celebrate with ‘music and dancing’ while a genocide is ongoing.”
It is “beyond tone-deaf and insensitive,” they said.
During the demonstration, Columbia and Barnard faculty read out the names of academics allegedly killed by Israel since the war with Hamas began on October 7.
Protesters also “banged on the doors” of the Low Library in which Columbia’s administrative offices are located, and adhered stickers reading “Columbia funds genocide, Columbia supports genocide” all over the building.
Palestinian Students Union President Mohsen Mahdawi praised protesters’ gumption — they spent two hours in the cold fighting for “justice,” “humanity,” and “peace.”
A smaller group of protesters carrying Israeli and American flags and orange balloons organized in front of the pro-Palestinian protesters on Low Steps, calling attention to the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.
The counterprotesters turned toward the pro-Palestinian protesters and chanted “105 days, bring the baby home” and held up signs displaying information about Kfir Bibas, the youngest Israeli hostage kidnapped on Oct. 7. They also played music and used noisemakers as pro-Palestinian protesters chanted and gave speeches. At around 1:30 p.m., demonstrators from the two groups confronted one another, yelling back and forth at each other through bullhorns.
“Ten thousand children have been killed! I want to see their pictures, I want you to chant for them, to stand for humanity, to stand for justice,” Mohsen Mahdawi [said].
University officials handed out fliers warning the demonstrators they could face discipline for the “unsanctioned event held by an unrecognized student coalition.”
Columbia spokesperson Samantha Slater told the Spectator that the university “continues to support students who wish to express themselves through speech,” and that students “are expected to pay their tuition in order to register for classes.”
IMAGES: columbiaydsa, sjp.columbia, and bcabolitioncollective/Instagram