Only 15 of the 46 individuals arrested for the occupation of Hamilton Hall face charges. The other 31 individuals’ charges were dropped on the basis of lack of evidence. 

According to ABC News, New York judge Kevin McGrath dismissed cases against 30 individuals who were arrested inside of Hamilton Hall in April. Cases were dismissed for protesters without a prior criminal record, citing a lack of evidence that harm was caused to individuals or University property. 

In April, a group of pro-Palestinian protestors occupied Hamilton Hall as a demonstration against the war in Gaza, renaming it Hind’s Hall after Hind Rajab, a six-year-old Palestinian girl killed by the IDF. These protestors were swiftly arrested the following day for criminal trespassing in the third degree, a class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors are punishable by up to three months in jail and a fine.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor who won the trial of the criminal conviction of former President Donald Trump, has previously declined to prosecute or defer prosecution cases for large groups of people arrested for civil disobedience.

During Thursday’s court hearing, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Millan cited “extremely limited video” as the reason for the dismissal of charges. As “security cameras were immediately covered by certain defendants,” the available video “fail[ed] to establish or prove” that the protesters damaged University property or caused harm. Judge McGrath dismissed 30 cases of trespassing against involved individuals who did not have criminal histories. Previously, one other defendant also had their case dismissed. 

According to a Manhattan District Attorney, “at the time of the charged conduct, the defendants were either staff employed by, or students enrolled in, Columbia University, and are now subject to student or staff disciplinary proceedings.”

Of the 15 that continue to face charges, 14 were offered Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissal (ACD), the Manhattan DA’s office said. The ACD provides the potential for a full dismissal of the charges (usually after six months), as long as the defendant does not get rearrested during the adjourned time. 

However, all 14 defendants have refused that offer, 12 of whom were not students nor staff of Columbia University. At a news conference held outside the courtroom on Thursday’s hearing, the defendants announced they unanimously rejected the offer as a “united front against state repression.”

One defendant stated on Thursday that they “stand here today united by our action and the Palestinian cause. The state has attempted, once again, to divide us—dismissing some of our cases and offering others deals in accordance with their outside agitator narrative.” In a press conference after the tests of protesters occupying Hamilton Hall, Mayor Eric Adams claimed protests had been “co-opted by professional, outside agitators.”  

Another protestor stated that those “who took part in the liberation of Hind’s Hall were driven by the same necessity to escalate, to escalate for Gaza, to resist the savage genocide of our siblings in Palestine.”

The 14 defendants have their next court date on July 25. 

The 15th defendant, James Carlson, who has been arrested for protests dating back to 2005, is facing a charge of criminal trespassing in the third degree. He is facing a separate arson charge for burning an Israeli flag. According to court records, he has pleaded not guilty to both.

Hamilton Hall via Bwog Archives