Pro-Palestinian students in NYC shattered glass doors, vandalized offices before City College police raid

NEW YORK — Pro-Palestinian protesters occupied a City College administration building, vandalizing offices and shattering glass doors, before the City University of New York called in the NYPD to clear the encampment overnight, officials and students said Wednesday.

The group at the tent demonstration on the school’s Harlem campus also tried breaking into Shepard Hall, an ornate building modeled after Gothic cathedrals, according to a CUNY spokesperson.

NYPD cops entered campus at City College’s request around 11:45 p.m. Tuesday, resulting in 173 arrests in and around the CUNY college, university and police officials said.

Campus safety arrested 25 people who advanced from outside Columbia University, where hundreds of cops in riot gear stormed campus and arrested students occupying Hamilton Hall, to City College to continue their protest.

“We will not be intimidated by these brutal and spineless tactics,” students from the Gaza Solidarity Encampment said in a statement. “We take our lead from the steadfast resistance of the Palestinian people.”

Faced with a Wednesday deadline to clear the encampment before classes resumed after spring break, students said they voted unanimously to stay and defend the encampment. Several protesters were beat with batons, while one undergraduate student broke their ankle and two protesters cracked their teeth, they said.

“Students have a right to demonstrate peacefully and exercise their First Amendment rights,” the CUNY spokesperson said. “Actions were taken in response to specific and repeated acts of violence and vandalism, not in response to peaceful protest.”

“CUNY will continue working to keep our community free from violence, intimidation and harassment.”

Photos from inside the building show metal air vents ripped from the walls and chairs flipped upside down. Several umbrellas were fastened in front of glass doors as barricades while masks to cover protesters’ faces were seen scattered across the floor.

“VICTORY: STUDENTS HAVE ENTERED AND BEGAN OCCUPYING A BUILDING AT CCNY,” students from the CUNY Gaza Solidarity Encampment wrote on Instagram. The post showed two protesters pouring water into the eyes of another demonstrator, who appeared to have been pepper sprayed.

The Howard E. Wille Administration Building houses the institution’s administration offices, including those of the president and provost.

Columbia alum Fernando Bobis said he was arrested outside City College as part of the group that moved between campuses to protest.

Bobis, 42, said an officer tried shoving him to the ground three times, before changing tactics and pulling him down by his keffiyeh and straps for the Egyptian drum he plays during protests. Two other officers then jumped on him and brought him to his knees before pulling his arms “very violently” in a zip tie behind his back, he said.

The altercation left him with a large purplish bruise on his hip and swelling after more than seven hours in zip ties, while he struggled to monitor his sugar levels on his diabetes pump.

Bobis accused Mayor Eric Adams of “violently repressing the rights” of “citizens who are deeply, deeply disturbed and want an end to the violence against Palestinians.”

Harlem resident Omar, 51, said he was not part of the demonstration but walking his Pomeranian dog, Neptune, past campus when confrontations began between police and protesters.

“If people weren’t moving fast enough, they were just getting swept up. People who were getting arrested were not people who were causing trouble or mayhem,” he said.

Five cops moved toward him and pushed him to the ground, he said, when he realized he was being put under arrest. In a moment of “faith,” he made eye contact with a stranger and handed her Neptune, who will turn 1 on Sunday. His wife picked the dog up in Queens on Wednesday morning after Omar spent four hours at police headquarters.

“My whole world came crashing down and I’m very grateful (Neptune’s) back,” Omar said.

Close to 300 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested citywide overnight, police said. Some 119 of them were busted at Columbia University, about 50 of those inside Hamilton Hall.

Police defended their response.

“A lot of these people would have resisted,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard said at a press conference, “but the way that these officers talked to them, handled them and took them into custody, it was very professional. And the overwhelming majority of arrests just led to a quick arrest with no incident.”

Students at City College have shifted to remote learning because of the campus unrest.

The CUNY encampment had demanded the public university system divest from Israel, guarantee amnesty for student antiwar protesters and make CUNY tuition-free and “not beholden to Zionist donors.”

“That is what we tried to engage the administration on from the beginning,” said N.H., 32, a CUNY law student from the West Bank who has friends who have died in the Gaza conflict. “The chancellor refused to come to the (negotiation) table. They unleashed NYPD on students before any good faith engagement with the demands.”

“I don’t know what exact next steps look like, but I know that we’re not going anywhere,” N.H. added.

The faculty union in a statement condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the NYPD’s response to campus protests.

“Lawful student protests on any CUNY campus should not be met with NYPD arrests,” the university chapter of the Professional Staff Congress said. “Administration can and must ensure students’ safety and prevent harassment on campus without resorting to the forcible removal of peaceful protesters.”