Pro-Palestinian student protesters who forced their way into an academic building at Columbia University Tuesday now face expulsion, university administrators announced a day after the school suspended students who ignored an order to break up their encampments.

The occupation began shortly after midnight at Hamilton Hall, Columbia’s main administrative building. It prompted the university to restrict access to the campus Tuesday, only allowing students who live in dorms and essential services staff to remain.

“Protesters have chosen to escalate to an untenable situation — vandalizing property, breaking doors and windows, and blockading entrances,” said university spokesman Ben Chang in a statement.

“This is about responding to the actions of the protesters, not their cause,” he continued. “As we said yesterday, disruptions on campus have created a threatening environment for many of our Jewish students and faculty.”

While many classes have already ended for the semester, some graduate programs pivoted to remote. All main campus libraries were shuttered, just as final exam season is getting underway.

“There is no additional access to the Morningside campus,” a memo from the university reads. “This access restriction will remain in place until circumstances allow otherwise.”

Student protesters said in a statement that they will stay until Columbia concedes to three demands: Divestment from Israel, financial transparency, and amnesty for all student and faculty disciplinary action related to pro-Palestinian advocacy.

“Resistance is justified in the movement for liberation,” said Columbia University Apartheid Divest, a coalition of more than 100 groups behind the encampment, which persisted on the lawns while other students occupied the hall.

Madeline, a sophomore at Columbia, was trying to make an emergency therapy appointment Tuesday because of the situation on campus. But like many other programs and services, in-person mental health facilities were out of reach.

“I think closing off campus is a horrible idea, to close it off to students,” Madeline said.

“I have meal swipes,” she continued. “I’m basically almost on a full-ride [scholarship] here, so campus dining is my food.”

The NYPD said its officers remained off-campus and have not yet been asked to intervene. There have been no arrests.

“The NYPD is always ready,” NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey said at an unrelated press conference in Harlem. “But as of right now, we will not be going on Columbia’s property unless we get a specific request to go in there or if there is an imminent danger.”

University officials over the weekend committed to not calling the cops to break up the recent protests, claiming that police intervention would only inflame an already tense situation. Columbia spokespeople Tuesday declined to say if that commitment was still in place.

Videos shows protesters shattering a window with a hammer and creating a barricade with metal chairs outside Hamilton Hall after they entered the building. They chanted during an Instagram livestream: “1, 2, 3, 4, occupation no more. 5, 6, 7, 8, Israel is a terrorist state.”

Protest posters were unfurled from two balconies. One said “STUDENT INTIFADA,” photos show. Intifada in Arabic means uprising, which has been used by Palestinians for decades.

Another banner read “Hind’s Hall,” referring to Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian girl killed in Gaza during an Israeli military operation in January.

Protesters inside the hall — the center of campus protests in the 1960s — were using tables, chairs and zip-ties to prevent anyone from getting in, according to student newspaper the Columbia Spectator.

The student reporters said they observed a facilities worker, who was already inside the building, leave saying: “They held me hostage.” 

Two students tried to block protesters from barricading the doors, saying, “You don’t have a right to tear down our University,” the Spectator reported.

“They’re already inside, dumb a**es,” a protester retorted during the Instagram Live. The student group, Students for Justice in Palestine, used a video filter to put virtual mustaches on the students’ faces.

At least one of the students was removed by physical force, videos show.

Meanwhile, many Columbia students and staff were stuck along the perimeter of campus, removed from jobs and campus facilities.

A 22-year-old physics student who lives off-campus was unable to go to work at a Columbia lab. He said he could “understand” why the university tightened security.

“At a time this complicated, it’s very hard to say what’s right or wrong. I’m hoping it calms down, just things generally,” he said.

Barnard faculty overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in President Laura Rosenbury on Tuesday, student newspaper Columbia Spectator reported.

“A lot of people are decrying the use of NYPD, and saying that the university is escalating this,” said Columbia student Caleb, 30. “At every turn the protestors are the ones who are escalating this. For some reason, I don’t hear that viewpoint on campus.”

In their statement, students pleaded with Columbia administrators and trustees: “Do not incite another Kent or Jackson State by bringing soldiers and police officers with weapons onto our campus. Students’ blood will be on your hands.”

The pro-Gaza encampment first emerged on campus on April 17, as Shafik testified before Congress about efforts to curb antisemitism. Thirty hours later, university officials had suspended students involved and called the NYPD, with cops arresting more than 100 students while clearing the lawn.

The protesters quickly returned and re-erected the encampment.

Columbia President Minouche Shafik on Monday morning said negotiations with student protesters had broken down, and Columbia will not divest from Israel. Students were told in writing they had until 2 p.m. to leave the quad or risk suspension. The deadline was ignored.

“The students are again willing to talk, so long as the university takes a step forward in materially addressing the demands of divestment, disclosure and amnesty,” said Sueda Polat, a Columbia graduate student and lead negotiator for the encampment.

Polat said it would be “short-sighted” of the university to expel them for their protest. “I strongly believe that it would galvanize the rest of the campus community,” she said.

(With Thomas Tracy.)


©2024 New York Daily News. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.