House Dems demand Columbia U. trustees 'act decisively' against anti-Israel protests or resign

A demonstrator breaks the windows of the front door of the building in order to secure a chain around it to prevent authorities from entering as demonstrators from the pro-Palestinan encampment barricade themselves inside Hamilton Hall, an academic building at Colombia University, on April 30, 2024 in New York City.
A demonstrator breaks the windows of the front door of the building in order to secure a chain around it to prevent authorities from entering as demonstrators from the pro-Palestinan encampment barricade themselves inside Hamilton Hall, an academic building at Colombia University, on April 30, 2024 in New York City. | Kent/Getty Images

Nearly two dozen House Democrats warned Columbia University’s board that it must “act decisively” to stop the ongoing anti-Israel demonstrations one day before protesters shattered the windows of a campus building and barricaded themselves inside.

Led by Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Dan Goldman of New York, a group of 21 Democratic lawmakers addressed the trustees of Columbia University in a Monday letter

The lawmakers expressed disappointment that the university has yet to disband the “unauthorized and impermissible encampment of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish activists on campus."

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The letter notes that the demonstration on campus has prevented students from safely attending class and leaving their dorms, which the House Democrats stated is an “apparent violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

The lawmakers accused the encampment of serving as a “breeding ground for antisemitic attacks against Jewish students.” 

“The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, but not freedom to harass and intimidate other students. Academic institutions must ensure the safety and security of all of their students under Title VI,” the letter reads.

“It is clear to us that the University has allowed the encampment to create an environment that appears to violate its legal obligations to protect all students from discrimination and harassment,” the House Democrats continued. “As a result, many students who are paying for an education — supported by the federal government — cannot safely attend class, enter the library, or leave their dorm rooms.” 

In response to the protests, Columbia University set a deadline of 2 p.m. on Monday for students to leave the encampment or face suspension.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik disclosed in a Monday statement that the school would not divest from Israel but was in the process of negotiating with the protest organizers to reach a solution. 

The Democratic lawmakers expressed appreciation for the school’s attempts to resolve the situation peacefully but stressed that the “time for negotiation is over; the time for action is now.”

“Those who violate the law cannot dictate the terms of the University’s ability to comply with that law. It is past time for the University to act decisively, disband the encampment, and ensure the safety and security of all of its students,” the letter stated, adding that trustees who are unwilling to act should resign."

Columbia University did not immediately respond to The Christian Post’s request for comment. 

Notable signatories of the letter include Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the former chair of the House Intelligence Committee; Rep. Dean Philips, D-Minn., a former 2024 presidential candidate; Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the former House majority leader from 2007-2011 and 2019-2023; and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee. 

Video footage shared to X early Tuesday morning shows protesters smashing the windows of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University and breaking into the building.

One video depicted demonstrators dressed in all black climbing through the building’s windows.

As a large group of demonstrators assembled outside of the building, another set of people entered and used chairs and vending machines to barricade the doors of Hamilton Hall, CBS News reports. Some individuals also used hammers to break the building’s windows. 

The protesters displayed a “Free Palestine” banner from one of the windows of the building, which the demonstrators renamed “Hind’s Hall” after Hind Rajab, a 6-year-old Palestinian child who died in Gaza earlier this year amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

The war began after Hamas terrorists attacked civilians in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and massacred at least 1,200 people, primarily civilians. The terrorists also abducted around 240 others. In response, Israel launched an offensive in Gaza to eradicate Hamas, a terror group that has controlled Gaza since 2007, and secure the release of hostages. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry says over 34,000 people have died in the conflict but hasn't differentiated between civilians and combatants. 

Columbia University Apartheid Divest, one of the groups that has claimed responsibility for the occupation of Hamilton Hall, published a statement Tuesday. The group said that demonstrators intend to remain at the hall until Columbia University concedes to “divestment, financial transparency, and amnesty.” 

“Resistance is justified in the movement for liberation. Liberators acting in solidarity with Palestine continue to hold themselves to a higher standard than Columbia,” the statement declared, accusing the university of endangering students by authorizing the police to clear the camp and arrest over 100 protestors earlier this month.

“Columbia has forced protestors to escalate by contributing to a genocide while refusing to follow baseline standards of contact that make negotiation possible,” the group stated. 

The ongoing protests at Columbia University prompted Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to lead a delegation of congressional members in calling for the resignation of the university's President Minouche Shafik. 

The Republican lawmakers stated in a letter last week that they “have no confidence” in Shafik’s “leadership of this once esteemed institution.” 

The Republicans highlighted various reports of antisemitic incidents and the targeting of Jewish students by the protesters. As the representatives noted in the letter, Rabbi Elie Buechler, director of the campus’ Orthodox Union-Jewish Learning Initiative, advised 290 students to stay home due to the current campus environment. 

“It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved,” the rabbi stated. “It is not our job as Jews to ensure our own safety on campus.”

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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