After the escalation of pro-Palestinian protests at the elite Columbia University, the police cleared the university building occupied by students. On Tuesday evening, hundreds of police officers flocked to the campus in northern Manhattan, as a DPA reporter reported on site. The officers entered the occupied Hamilton Hall and arrested several demonstrators. According to US broadcaster NBC, around 100 of them were taken into custody.

The demonstrators had criticized Israel’s actions in the Gaza war and called for solidarity with the Palestinians. They also demanded that the university cut financial ties with Israel. The university administration rejected this – and requested police support after masked people wearing black and white Palestinian scarves broke windows on Tuesday night, stormed Hamilton Hall and barricaded the entrance to the building with chairs and tables.

During the following police operation, dozens of tents in the so-called solidarity camp on the site were also searched. Footage showed that the demonstrators tried to prevent the police from advancing with human chains, but were pushed aside or torn apart.

It was the second major operation on campus after the New York police had already moved against the students almost two weeks ago at the request of the university management. They saw their right to freedom of expression limited and criticized the actions of the security forces as disproportionate.

As a result, demonstrations and tent camps were set up at dozens of universities in the USA. Critics accuse the radical part of the protest movement in particular of anti-Semitism and trivializing Hamas – the Islamist organization denies Israel’s right to exist and triggered the Gaza war with an unprecedented massacre on October 7th.

The violent occupation of Hamilton Hall further fueled criticism of the students. Columbia University said it had made it very clear “that the work of the university cannot be endlessly disrupted by protesters violating the rules. If this continues to happen, there will be clear consequences.” Even the US government spoke of the students taking the “absolutely wrong path”: “This is not an example of peaceful protest,” said National Security Council Communications Director John Kirby.

On Monday, the university management announced that it would suspend students if they did not leave the protest camp on the university campus by the afternoon. But the opposite happened: demonstrators broke into Hamilton Hall, which had already been occupied in 1968 during a protest against the Vietnam War.

According to media reports, more than 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested in the USA since the pro-Palestinian student protests began in April. On Tuesday, things were not only heated in New York, but police also intervened in other states such as California, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Florida.

Hamas and other Islamist groups killed around 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 250 as hostages in the Gaza Strip during their attack on Israel on October 7 last year. Israel responded with a ground offensive and air strikes on the coastal area. As a result, according to information from the Hamas-controlled health authority – which can hardly be independently verified – around 34,500 people have been killed since the start of the war.