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Charges dropped against most of Columbia University's Hamilton Hall protesters

Charges dropped against many arrested after occupying Columbia's Hamilton Hall
Charges dropped against many arrested after occupying Columbia's Hamilton Hall 01:05

NEW YORK -- Charges were dropped Thursday against most of the Columbia University students and staff who were arrested inside Hamilton Hall during pro-Palestinian demonstrations back in April.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office announced that of the 46 people charged with trespassing, 31 cases were dismissed due to a lack of evidence. The DA's office said surveillance cameras inside the building had been covered and that no police officers were injured during the arrests.

Prosecutors told 14 others that their cases would be dropped if they avoid getting arrested in the next six months, but they rejected that offer, the DA's office said. Of those 14, only two are students, prosecutors said.

A fifteenth defendant whose trespassing charge was not dropped is also facing unrelated charges of burning a flag during a Columbia protest and breaking an NYPD camera while detained in a holding cell, the DA's office said. 

A group of Columbia students spoke outside Manhattan criminal court Thursday to address the dropped charges.

"The state has attempted once again to divide us, dismissing some of our cases and offering others deals in accordance with their outside agitator narrative," one student said. "As ever, we categorically reject this division as one drawn along arbitrary, classist lines meant to preserve the sanctity of Columbia University, not an institution in the city of New York, but always above and apart from it."

The students and staff who are no longer facing criminal charges still have to deal with ongoing school disciplinary proceedings, prosecutors said.

The DA's office said, however, that it is continuing to pursue cases involving assaults against police officers.

The arrests ended two weeks of demonstrations at Columbia University, as students called on the school to divest from companies doing business with Israel. Protesters had set up an encampment on the school's main lawn, and some forced their way inside Hamilton Hall after discussions with school officials broke down.

Columbia University President Dr. Minouche Shafik then requested the NYPD's help to clear the hall.

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