Gaza protesters at Columbia defy deadline to leave encampment: ‘We will not be moved unless by force’

 (The Independent)
(The Independent)

Gaza solidarity protesters at Columbia refused to abandon their encampment after the university’s leaders issued a threat to issue mass suspensions if they did not leave by 2pm today.

“We will not be moved unless by force,” said Sueda Polat, one of the protest organisers, at a defiant press conference at the camp on Monday after the deadline had passed.

Hundreds of students are likely to be impacted by the suspensions, which the university administration announced on Monday after negotiations between the protest organisers and the university broke down.

The sweeping punishment would ban the protesters from all their classes, from the campus and campus accommodations and, if they are eligible, from graduating.

The decision by the university administration comes as protests continue to spread to college campuses across the US in protest over Israel’s war in Gaza, and following a brutal crackdown by police that led to hundreds of arrests.

Columbia University handed out letters to protesters in the encampment earlier on Monday warning the protesters of their suspension if they didn’t leave by 2pm and sign a document that declared their departure.

“It is important for you to know that the University has already identified many students in the encampment. If you do not identify yourself upon leaving and sign the form now, you will not be eligible to complete the semester in good standing,” the letter said.

“If you do not leave by 2p.m., you will be suspended pending further investigation,” it added.

Protesters responded to the letter by scrawling messages and pinning them to the fence surrounding the camp.


When 2pm arrived, the protest encampment remained and was buoyed by hundreds of Columbia students who surrounded it in support. Faculty members were also pictured linking arms around the encampment.

Ms Polat, an organiser involved in the negotiations, said at a press conference following the 2pm deadline that the suspensions were “attempts to stifle the student movement.”

“The university has conducted itself with obstinacy and arrogance, refusing to be flexible on some of our most basic points,” she said.

“That said, we were engaging in good faith negotiation until the administration cut them off under threat of suspensions.”

A spokesperson from Columbia University declined to comment when asked by The Independent is the suspensions were now in effect.