© 2024 KRWG
News that Matters.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The latest on student protests in New York City and around the country

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

All over the country, from New York to Louisiana to Arizona and to California, colleges and universities are reeling after a night of clashes and confrontations between police and pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Let him go. Let him go. Let him go.

CHANG: Hundreds of students were arrested as university leaders moved to break up encampments and take back buildings occupied by campus protesters who are angry about Israel's war in Gaza. Two of the biggest shows of force were at Columbia University in New York, where those chants you just heard were recorded, and at UCLA in Los Angeles. We're joined now by NPR's Adrian Florido in New York and reporter Steve Futterman in LA. Welcome to both of you.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Thanks, Ailsa.

STEVE FUTTERMAN, BYLINE: Great to be with you, Ailsa.

CHANG: Adrian, I want to start with you. You're in New York. Can you just tell us more about what happened last night with police at Columbia?

FLORIDO: Well, hundreds of NYPD officers moved onto the campus a little after 9 last night, and they had two main targets. One was the pro-Palestinian encampment that students had put up on a lawn in the center of campus. The other was a building called Hamilton Hall, which protesters took over the night before. It took the police about an hour to clear both. They arrested 119 people at Columbia...

CHANG: Wow.

FLORIDO: ...And hauled them away in buses. And today, New York Mayor Eric Adams forcefully defended the police operation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC ADAMS: While those who broke into the building did include students, it was led by individuals who are not affiliated with the university. The school needed the NYPD's assistance to clear Hamilton Hall and the encampments outside.

FLORIDO: Columbia's president, Minouche Shafik, said today that she'd called the police because protesters and outside nonstudent protesters who had taken over and vandalized that building had crossed the line into acts of destruction and were no longer just engaging in political speech.

CHANG: Huh. Well, what are student protesters and their supporters saying about all that?

FLORIDO: Well, they and their supporters are harshly criticizing the university, saying it is abhorrent to unleash such a forceful police response on what they say and what generally have been peaceful antiwar protests. At a press conference this evening, protest leaders said that many of the students arrested last night suffered cuts, swollen faces and other injuries at the hands of police.

CHANG: OK. And you're talking about what happened at Columbia, but I understand the police also arrested a bunch of students at City College. Is that right?

FLORIDO: That's right. The school admin at the City College of New York called the police to clear an encampment there, too. Things got tense. Police used pepper spray. And they arrested 173 protesters there - even more than were arrested at Columbia. And we've also seen, outside of New York, Ailsa, a lot of arrests - 34 at the University of Wisconsin, 14 at Tulane in New Orleans, several at the University of Arizona - all that just in the last day, and those are just a few of the schools where this is happening.

CHANG: Yeah, let's add to that UCLA. Steve Futterman, let's go to you because you are on campus at UCLA right now - right? - where, at last check, I understand authorities have not made any move to clear the protests there. What's going on right now?

FUTTERMAN: Well, Ailsa, it's now very calm here after this very violent night as these pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli protesters actually came face-to-face and clashed. It all apparently began when the pro-Israeli protesters began to take down the barricades protecting the encampment. That led to almost instant clashes in a large, grassy, park-like area just adjacent to the encampment. Those nasty clashes, which included many fistfights, continued for several hours. Marie Salem is part of the encampment. She blames the pro-Israeli supporters.

MARIE SALEM: They fully came with a larger group covered in masks and tried to break in very physically into - breach our barricade. And then they launched fireworks at us. They launched multiple fireworks at us. And from there, they really brought irritants. They brought bear spray, and they brought mace.

FUTTERMAN: Now, we should point out that, during the previous several nights, there have been a handful of pro-Israeli protesters past midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m., with a couple of megaphones trying to prevent the pro-Palestinian protesters from sleeping. They say they're responding to antisemitism, which they claim is being promoted inside the encampment.

CHANG: Do you think the arrests at UCLA last night suggest that university officials have had it with the protests? Like, they canceled classes today, right?

FUTTERMAN: Yes, no classes today, but it's unclear what these UCLA officials plan to do in the long run. Now, last night, they declared the encampment illegal. That certainly sounds like they want to do something, maybe tear it down, but those inside the encampment say they have no plans to leave. It presents UCLA with a number of very uncomfortable choices.

CHANG: Well, how did the police deal with the situation last night, exactly?

FUTTERMAN: Well, initially, they weren't even here. The sporadic clashes went on for quite a while before the LA police and the California Highway Patrol showed up. Initially, they just stood around 50 yards away, watching. When they finally did move in, there was virtually no violence. The officers that were armed with batons and dressed in riot gear basically marched towards the protesters, and the protesters scattered. They did this numerous times over around a 30-, 40-minute period. When it was over, the adjacent area next to the encampment where all the problems took place was clear. Barricades have now been set up. Police are controlling the area, but there are some who say the police should have moved in much sooner.

CHANG: Well, Adrian, I want to go back to you in New York. The students who've been cleared from the campuses, both at Columbia and at City College - do you know if they have plans to regroup or protest or camp elsewhere? What do you know?

FLORIDO: Well, Ailsa, students are saying the protest movement isn't going anywhere. In fact, at a press conference today, Cameron Jones, a leader of the Columbia demonstrations, said that the university's crackdown has only strengthened their resolve.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CAMERON JONES: We call on students and faculty worldwide to escalate their protests. You must create your own campus agitation. University business cannot continue as usual.

FLORIDO: Remember, Ailsa, that students have organized because they want their school leaders to take a forceful stance against Israel and its war on Gaza and to divest from and cut financial ties with many of the companies doing business with Israel. And they say that nothing short of that will stop their protests, and we've already seen, today, a number of new encampments popping up at schools across the country.

CHANG: That is NPR's Adrian Florido in New York and Steve Futterman in Los Angeles. Thank you to both of you.

FLORIDO: Thanks, Ailsa.

FUTTERMAN: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.
Steve Futterman
[Copyright 2024 WYPR - 88.1 FM Baltimore]