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Columbia University protesters taken into custody after police enter campus. Here's what we know.

Police arrest protesters at Columbia University, City College of New York
Police arrest protesters at Columbia University, City College of New York 07:12

NEW YORK -- Columbia University protesters were taken into custody late Tuesday night after the school president asked the NYPD to clear them from campus.

Police set up a massive presence outside the university before officers began moving in around 9 p.m.

A dramatic scene unfolded as the NYPD brought in a large vehicle with an extendable ramp to enter a second-floor window of Hamilton Hall, which schools officials said had been occupied by protesters. Around 9:30 p.m., dozens of officers wearing helmets began to enter the building through a window they had pried open. Additional crowds of officers entered campus on foot through the main gate.

NYPD officers in riot gear arrive at Columbia University, where pro-Palestinian students are barricaded inside a building and have set up an encampment, in New York City on April 30, 2024. KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

According to police, flash bangs were used to disorient the protesters as officers made their way inside Hamilton Hall. They said no tear gas was used.

Columbia's student radio station WKCR was broadcasting live as officers began moving in.

Police said protesters had barricaded the halls with soda machines, chairs and other furniture. The NYPD released video of officers clearing chairs from a stairwell, as well as officers prying open a door to a room inside the building. No students appeared to be inside the room.

According to police, dozens of people were taken into custody, and three encampments were dismantled. At least two New York City Department of Correction buses full of protesters were seen driving away from the school.

NYPD officers arrest students at Columbia University in New York City on April 30, 2024. CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Police set up barricades around the university's perimeter earlier Tuesday evening. Protesters outside the campus were heard chanting "shame on you" and "free, free Palestine" as officers made their way inside and led students in handcuffs out.

An alert sent from the school Tuesday night urged students on the Morningside campus to "shelter in place for your safety due to heightened activity" and "avoid the area until further notice."

The university says until further notice, access to the Morningside campus will be limited to students who live in residential buildings on campus, essential service employees who work in campus buildings and labs and essential residential student life employees. Students and employees must use the gate at 116th Street and Amsterdam to enter and exit the campus.

Security personnel will be available at the Wien Gate to assist those who need special access to Wien Hall and East Campus.

According to the MTA, 1 trains traveling in both directions are skipping the 116th Street-Columbia University due to police activity. The MTA says riders should instead take the B or C train to 116th Street.

Columbia University protesters refuse to leave Hamilton Hall

Early Tuesday, groups of demonstrators forced their way into Hamilton Hall and locked themselves inside. Protesters smashed windows and doors to get into the building and then refused to leave. Furniture could be seen boarded against doors, and supplies were being lifted up to people inside the building via a rope and pulley.

Hamilton Hall is across from the school's main lawn, where a tent encampment was set up for about two weeks.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and local law enforcement officials said Tuesday afternoon they believed "outside agitators" had "co-opted" the on-campus protests. At a press conference, they urged Columbia student protesters to leave the area "before the situation escalates in any way."

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik requests NYPD's assistance with protests

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik wrote a letter to NYPD Deputy Commissioner Michael Gerber on Tuesday evening requesting the department's assistance to clear protesters from Hamilton Hall and the encampments.

Shafik wrote in part, "The events on campus [Monday] night have left us no choice. With the support of the University's Trustees, I have determined that the building occupation, the encampments, and related disruptions pose a clear and present danger to persons, property, and the substantial functioning of the University and require the use of emergency authority to protect persons and property. With the utmost regret, we request the NYPD's help to clear all individuals from Hamilton Hall and all campus encampments. As part of this process, we understand that the NYPD plans to use its LRAD technology to inform participants in the encampments that they must disperse."

NYPD officers in riot gear march onto Columbia University campus, where pro-Palestinian students are barricaded inside a building and have set up an encampment, in New York City on April 30, 2024. KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

Shafik also requested that the NYPD maintain a presence on campus through May 17 "to maintain order and ensure encampments are not reestablished."

Columbia University's commencement is scheduled for May 15.

Columbia University releases statement after NYPD enters campus

A university spokesman released the following statement at 9:26 p.m.:

"A little after 9 p.m. this evening, the NYPD arrived on campus at the University's request. This decision was made to restore safety and order to our community.

"We regret that protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions. After the University learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized, and blockaded, we were left with no choice. Columbia public safety personnel were forced out of the building, and a member of our facilities team was threatened. We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation. 

"The leadership team, including the Board of Trustees, met throughout the night and into the early morning, consulting with security experts and law enforcement to determine the best plan to protect our students and the entire Columbia community. We made the decision, early in the morning, that this was a law enforcement matter, and that the NYPD were best positioned to determine and execute an appropriate response.  

"We believe that the group that broke into and occupied the building is led by individuals who are not affiliated with the University.  Sadly, this dangerous decision followed more than a week of what had been productive discussions with representatives of the West Lawn encampment.  

"We severely curtailed the number of people on Morningside campus starting Tuesday morning. Over the course of the day, we updated our community on access to campus buildings, and will continue to do so through the next few days. 

"The decision to reach out to the NYPD was in response to the actions of the protesters, not the cause they are championing. We have made it clear that the life of campus cannot be endlessly interrupted by protesters who violate the rules and the law. 

"Early Tuesday, protesters chose to escalate to an alarming and untenable situation – including by vandalizing property, breaking doors and windows, blockading entrances, and forcing our facilities and public safety workers out – and we are responding appropriately as we have long made clear we would. The safety of our community, especially our students, remains our top priority."

Columbia University student protesters arrested

The NYPD had previously been called in by University President Shafik on April 18 after pro-Palestinian demonstrators first set up their unsanctioned tent city on the school's lawn. In a letter, Shafik wrote in part, "The encampment and related disruptions pose a clear and present danger to the substantial functioning of the University ... With great regret, we request the NYPD's help to remove these individuals."

More than 100 people were arrested. Most of them were given summonses for trespassing, and Shafik said participating students would be suspended.

In the following days, the encampment was set back up and grew even larger.

This isn't the first time student protesters have been arrested at Columbia University.

Back in April 1968, students took over five campus buildings, including Hamilton Hall, while protesting multiple causes, including the Vietnam War. After several days, police moved in to remove the demonstrators on April 30, 1968. More than 700 people were arrested and more than 130 were hurt.

What is happening at Columbia University?

Pro-Palestinian protesters have been calling on Columbia to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

School officials and student protest organizers entered into discussions to try to come to an agreement that would lead to the encampment being dismantled, but officials said Monday that talks had broken down.

Students were told the tents needed to be packed up by Monday afternoon, but protesters refused to comply and later forced their way into Hamilton Hall.

The NYPD says those inside Hamilton Hall could face burglary, criminal mischief and trespassing charges, while those in the encampments could face trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

Columbia officials say students inside Hamilton Hall face expulsion and students who refuse to leave the encampment are being suspended. They say seniors will be ineligible to graduate.

University President Shafik said while she respects students' right to protest, the demonstration has created an unwelcome environment for some Jewish students and a distraction for final exams.

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the actions at Hamilton Hall crossed into vandalism and violence, but ultimately it's up to the university to decide how to handle it.

Protesters, police clash at City College

The pro-Palestinian demonstrations at Columbia University are among many happening not only in the Tri-State Area, but across the country.

Protesters and police clashed at City College on Tuesday. Video showed large crowds gathered, and some people threw liquid at police and people getting arrested.

Another video showed large crowds of protesters cheering while holding flares underneath a gothic arch on campus.

As a precaution, all City College classes and functions will be remote beginning Wednesday.

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