CCNY Palestine Encampment Shut Down, 170 Arrested in Ensuing Scuffle

The center of the CCNY encampment on April 30 hours before NYPD intervention./Kate Dempsey

By Shlomie Katash


   On April 30, CUNY administrative leaders requested assistance from the NYPD in shutting down pro-Palestine protests and encampments at City College of New York (CCNY) after receiving word of campus intrusions. The ensuing shuffle between protestors and NYPD resulted in the arrests of 170 people, 28 of which have been charged with misdemeanors.

   The encampment began on the morning of April 25 during the school’s spring break. Created by over 100 members of “CUNY For Palestine,” a grassroots organization made up of students, alumni, and faculty, the encampment included banners, tents, art, and stations to distribute literature, food, water, and hygiene products; a Palestinian flag was hoisted on the central flagpole, per City College’s newspaper, The Campus.

   The CCNY organizers then formed “CUNY Gaza Solidarity Encampment” (CUNYGSE). The encampment had five demands of the college: “divest, boycott, solidarity, demilitarize, a people’s CUNY,” according to their mission statement. Discussions with school administrators began on April 26, with security on campus increasing and certain sections of the school becoming closed off, according to The Campus.

   CUNY for Palestine claimed that CCNY president Vincent Boudreau sent a letter to the encampment on April 30 warning them that it must be torn down by the next day so that classes could occur, while subsequently announcing that classes on May 1 would be remote.

   “The University notified organizers and demonstrators on Tuesday afternoon that the encampment needed to be dismantled on Wednesday in time for the start of classes,” Rodríguez said in a statement on May 2. “We further said that if that occurred, we would work with student leaders to identify an alternate location on the City College campus for protests to continue, in accordance with CUNY policies.”

   According to The New York Times, protests on April 30 were “mostly quiet” until around 7 p.m., when hundreds of protestors unaffiliated with CCNY arrived at the campus alongside dozens of police officers. Rodríguez claimed that these protestors came from a similar demonstration happening at Columbia University, which also called on the NYPD to arrest protestors after they seized a campus building, per FOX 5 NY.

   Protestors at CCNY broke into a campus building, smashed computers in the financial aid office, and attempted to barricade themselves inside before public safety officers removed them, according to The New York Times. Campus security arrested 31 people, only two of whom were affiliated with the school, Boudreau said in a student town hall presentation on May 8.

   In the hours following, scuffling continued between police and protestors as the NYPD blocked any movement into CCNY by 8 p.m., according to The Campus. TIME reported that officers in riot gear repeatedly told protestors to “move back” from the public sidewalk without providing specific instructions, later arresting individuals who did not comply, per The Campus

     Boudreau and Rodríguez decided to request NYPD assistance in removing the remaining demonstrators, prompting hundreds of police officers to flood into the campus and break through barricades by 11:30 p.m. CUNY for Palestine claimed this was done “without warning,” though The Campus reported that those at the encampment were internally advised to leave or risk arrest as the NYPD repeatedly made similar announcements.

   According to City & State, of the 170 arrested at CCNY, the majority were released with summonses and 28 were charged with burglary–a Class D felony–and obstructing governmental administration. 

   Members within the CUNY community expressed widespread condemnation of the actions of the CCNY administration and NYPD. The Professional Staff Congress (PSC)–the labor union that represents CUNY faculty–released a statement on May 1 stating that NYPD’s actions were “escalatory and disproportionate to any threat that the encampment posed,” arguing that it “violates the trust and community that make the shared quest for education possible.” CUNY for Palestine in their May 1 press release claimed that the police “broke the ankle of an undergraduate student, broke the teeth of two protestors, attacked and burned many students, faculty and at least one journalist with pepper spray at close range, and beat many more with batons.”

   A petition to CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez has been circulated among CUNY faculty. The letter criticizes Rodríguez for asking the NYPD to dismantle the encampment and his rhetoric following the arrests, requesting him to press for the charges to be lowered. It has been signed by 472 members of the CUNY faculty as of May 12, including 110 of those from Brooklyn College. As of press time, the document is not available to the public as CUNY faculty are continuing to sign. 

   In response to the escalation at CCNY, Brooklyn College administrators announced in a campus-wide email on May 2 that outdoor events would be moved indoors for the rest of the semester, citing concerns of potential disruption on BC’s campus.  

   “Given the extraordinary events unfolding at other colleges in New York City and across the country, we have reluctantly made the decision to move outdoor events on our campus indoors or online,” the statement said. “This route is the best one to protect the safety and security of all Brooklyn College students, staff, and faculty, and to help ensure that the college’s educational environment remains free from disruption at this critical time in the semester.”


   This is a developing story. The Vanguard will report on updates as they are made available.

About web 901 Articles
WebGroup is a group @ Brooklyn College