On Wednesday morning, New York City Mayor Eric Adams held a press conference to address the protests at Columbia and CCNY. This comes about 12 hours after Columbia University authorized the use of NYPD officers to remove protesters from Hamilton Hall.

On Wednesday morning, New York City Mayor Eric Adams held a press conference to address the protests at Columbia and CCNY that had taken place less than 12 hours before. 

Adams began his statement by commending the NYPD’s actions. He then stated his commitment to “protect” New York City from “a movement to radicalize young people,” claiming that “young people are being influenced by those who are professionals at radicalizing our children,” referring to reports that some protesters seen and apprehended at Columbia were unaffiliated with the University. 

He also emphasized that it was at the University’s request that NYPD called to de-escalate the situation. Additionally, he said that it was “[the University’s] acknowledgment that outside agitators were on their grounds… coopting this movement.”

According to Adams, NYPD was called in “to remove those who have turned peaceful protests into a place where antisemitism and anti-Israeli attitudes were pervasive.” He reported that about 300 people were arrested between Columbia and CCNY, although authorities have yet to distinguish between students and non-affiliates. The “external actors” in question reportedly had “a history of escalating situations and trying to create chaos,” Adams added.

In reference to objects reportedly thrown at NYPD officers at CCNY, Adams said “Those officers showed a great level of discipline to not allow this to evolve into an out-of-control situation.” He continued, praising the NYPD’s “precision policing” which he claimed ensured an “organized” and “calm” operation with “no injuries or violent clashes.”

Adams then explained the details of several measures taken by the NYPD using policing technologies including drones, the encryption of radios, and training with the Co-Response Teams, stating that the use of these measures “has been a plan put in place since January 2022.”

While those who “broke into the building [Hamilton Hall] did include students,” Adams said, “it was led by individuals who are not affiliated with the University.” He characterized the clearing of the Encampment and Hamilton Hall as “an operation that took place successfully.”

Adams asserted there were “external actors hijacking peaceful protests and influencing students to escalate,” saying that the occupation of Hamilton Hall was a “violent spectacle that serves no purpose.” Further, Adams stated that “there is no place for hate in this city,” and that intervening with Columbia protests was a “tough decision.”

Adams cited “clear evidence” from University observation and NYPD’s intelligence division, indicating that “it was time to move and the action had to end,” ultimately being “brought… to a peaceful conclusion” through NYPD intervention. Adams reported ongoing coordination with the University to “find a peaceful middle of allowing our young people to protest without violence.”

“We can’t create environments while children could be in danger,” he said. “We must push back on all attempts to radicalize our young people in the city like we are seeing across the entire globe.”

New York City Police Commissioner Edward Caban then began his statement, citing public safety as the reason for NYPD presence at Columbia. The preliminary charges of those arrested included trespassing, criminal mischief, and burglary, he said. Caban also claimed that the University had “worked for weeks to negotiate with the protesters,” a similar sentiment to that expressed by Columbia President Minouche Shafik, who said that negotiations were ultimately not able to reach an agreement. 

Caban then thanked “the men and women of this department [NYPD]” as they have “worked to keep our residents and workforce safe, to make sure our neighborhoods have full access to emergency services, and to keep life moving in the largest city in the nation.” He also thanked Columbia and CCNY for “their efforts in the developing situation.” 

He then picked up what appeared to be a bike chain from the table, similar to those used to lock the Hamilton Hall entrances, saying “They tried to lock us out. The NYPD and the people of the city of New York will never be locked and will always work together to keep our city safe.” To emphasize his point, he dropped the chain on the table.

The press conference then shifted to take questions from the audience, the first of which was about how many of the arrested individuals were “external agitators.” NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell responded, reporting 282 arrests, with 173 from CCNY and 119 from Columbia. Authorities have yet to do a thorough breakdown of who was and was not affiliated with CCNY and Columbia. Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence Rebecca Weiner also responded, citing the “change in tactics” used by protestors as posing a greater threat to public safety.

Adams said that reported that due to “evidence of training,” a “shift in tactics that were being used,” and “intelligence that intel was able to supply,” allowed NYPD to “communicate directly with the school and say ‘you have more than a peaceful protest on your hands.’” 

A series of clips from Tuesday night’s police activity were then shown. Protesters were shown chanting near Hamilton Hall against a line of police wearing riot gear. Other clips showed police on Broadway and Amsterdam, arresting protestors. 

DCPI stated that the videos show that arrests were made without injuries or altercations with police, commending the officers involved and calling the operation “very professional.” Adams then pointed to the last segment of the video depicting NYPD officers mounting an American flag onto an unknown flagpole, comparing the act to the flags displayed outside of Hamilton Hall during the occupation, calling the display of “another country’s” flag “despicable.”

Another reporter asked how the NYPD was able to identify that external agitators were involved but were not able to be identified in the protest or upon arrest. They also asked why press was not allowed near the protests while the NYPD was clearing the Encampment and Hamilton Hall, asking if this was “an attempt to control the narrative.”

Weiner reiterated the “change in tactics” as an identifier of external influences, which  represented “a normalization and mainstreaming of rhetoric… and tactics… associated with terrorism.” Adams followed up, stating that the NYPD “will not release any information that is too sensitive to release at this time.”

Regarding press, DCPI stated that press had been told prior to Tuesday night’s events that they would have to meet a DCPI representative on 114th Street to be granted access. Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kaz Daughtry said that in his “own personal opinion…the press kind of got in the way of operations.” 

One reporter asked if there was a specific group responsible for the “new tactics” being cited and if they present a threat of “homegrown terrorists.” They also asked about the ladder contraption used by the NYPD to gain access to Hamilton Hall, and if violence was “imminent,” inciting NYPD action.

Weiner emphasized NYPD’s concern about “radicalization,” referencing the presence of the wife of a former professor on Columbia’s campus, Nahla Al-Arian, whose husband was Sami Al-Arian, “who pleaded guilty in 2005 to fundraising and other support for the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” according to the New York Post. She then described some of the tools used by protestors, including “zip-ties” and some “rudimentary makeshift weapons,” also explaining that the gear worn by NYPD was to “protect officers.”

Chief Wilson Aramboles then described the inside of Hamilton Hall, which was “barricaded with objects such as vending machines, chairs, tables,” and difficult to get through because “[protestors] were throwing objects at [officers].” He emphasized that the operation was “carefully planned.”

Another reporter asked about how NYPD operations were planned. Chief of Department Jeffrey B Maddrey responded, saying that “we really didn’t plan for this,” given the rapid occupation of Hamilton Hall. The NYPD did not receive a request for action from the University until the day of the operation, he added. 

“For the first time in many years we used distraction devices… the only person in the department [who] is authorized to allow that is me,” Maddrey said. Distraction devices, or diversionary devices, are “light-sound devices, flashbangs, and distraction devices” according to the Office of Justice Programs

The NYPD also had to split resources between CCNY and Columbia, with Chell saying that NYPD had to “secure five dorms of over 2000 students to make sure they were safe. We didn’t give them the option to come out of the dorm[s] for that reason.”

A reporter then inquired about the wife of the former professor mentioned previously, asking if she was seen “advising” and “training” protestors. Weiner responded, saying that not just Al-Arian, but other outside agitators were present on and around campus, as per Columbia’s letter to NYPD.

The next question was regarding what NYPD and Columbia’s conversations entailed prior to the authorization letter, as well as what expectations and precedents look like going forward since NYPD presence has been requested until mid-May.

Adams replied, saying that “we’re here when you need us” and are “able to pivot quickly,” referring to NYPD action and assistance. He also reported that the City has been “in regular contact with the school leadership.” Caban added that there are continued conversations about “students’ rights to protest safely” and the collective safety of the campus community. Maddrey concluded, saying that the next steps would include going to campus and conducting an assessment to determine “what kind of resources” to allocate.’

NYPD presence via Bwog Staff