We visited the solidarity encampment at Columbia University. Here’s what it’s really like

We visited the solidarity encampment at Columbia University. Here’s what it’s really like

New York City Council Members Tiffany Cabán, Alexa Avilés, Shahana Hanif, and Sandy Nurse write:

If you only go by the recent statements from Mayor Eric Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul, and President Joe Biden, you might conclude that a student protest against the mass killing in Gaza is worse than the killing itself.

These official statements, and so many posts on social media, depict the Gaza Solidarity Encampment on the Columbia University campus as a cesspit of antisemitic hatred and a threat to the safety of all Jewish students and faculty. The vilification of these students reached its climax last week, when Columbia President Minouche Shafik assessed that the encampment posed “a clear and present danger” to the university and invited the NYPD’s notoriously violent Strategic Response Group to crush the protest and arrest more than 100 students who participated in it.

On Saturday, we visited the reconstituted encampment ourselves to add our voices to the students’ calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and freedom for Palestinians. What we saw couldn’t be more different from the dire warnings of rampant antisemitic threats and pervasive danger coming from City Hall, Albany and the White House.

The encampment is completely peaceful – an assessment shared not only by NBC’s reporter on the scene, but even NYPD Police Chief John Chell, whom we are not accustomed to agreeing with. The demonstration is well-organized, clean and disciplined. New entrants are immediately asked to commit to sound community agreements, which include not engaging with provocateurs. Over 100 student groups are coordinating 24-hour programming, inspiring interfaith spaces, snacks and art supplies for children and musical performances. This is the exact sort of initiative that should be welcomed, not suppressed, by the university’s leadership. [Continue reading…]

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