NYPD officer fired gun while clearing Columbia constructing

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A police officer involved in clearing protesters from a Columbia University administration constructing earlier this week fired his weapon contained in the hall, a spokesman for District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office confirmed Thursday.

No one was injured, in line with spokesman Doug Cohen. There were other officers within the immediate vicinity, but no students. He said Bragg's office is conducting a review.

He didn’t provide further details concerning the incident, which was first reported by The City news agency.

The New York Police Department didn’t immediately reply to The Associated Press' request for comment.

The shooting occurred as law enforcement officials stormed Hamilton Hall late Tuesday. Pro-Palestinian protesters were barricaded there for greater than 20 hours. Officers with zip ties and riot shields may very well be seen on video streaming through a second-story window. Police had said there was no significant resistance from protesters inside.

More than 100 protesters were arrested through the crackdown. They are amongst greater than 2,000 people arrested during pro-Palestinian protests at universities across the United States in recent weeks, in line with an Associated Press tally on Thursday.

Columbia's demonstrators had taken over Hamilton Hall early Tuesday, increasing their presence on campus from a tent encampment that had existed there since April 17. The camp was one among the primary on the school campus.

Despite greater than 100 arrests the subsequent day and the evacuation of tents, protesters defied threats of suspension and returned to the camp. They then escalated their demonstration by occupying Hamilton Hall, an administrative constructing also occupied in 1968 by students protesting racism and the Vietnam War.

Outside of Columbia's New York campus, demonstrations and arrests occurred in almost every a part of the country. Over the past 24 hours, they attracted most attention on the University of California, Los Angeles, where there have been chaotic scenes early Thursday as officers in riot gear tackled a crowd of protesters.

Hundreds of protesters at UCLA defied orders to depart, some forming human chains, while police fired flash bangs to disperse the gang.

At least 200 people were arrested, said Sgt. Alejandro Rubio of the California Highway Patrol, citing data from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

According to the university, one other 300 people voluntarily left the camp through the hours-long standoff. Some left the camp with their hands over their heads, demonstrating peaceful give up. Others ran away as officers armed with batons advanced into the hordes of greater than 1,000 people.

Later Thursday morning, staff removed the barricades and dismantled the protesters' fortified camp. Bulldozers scooped up trash bags and tents. Royce Hall was covered in graffiti.
Encampments of protesters calling on universities to stop doing business with Israel or firms they are saying support the war in Gaza have spread across campuses nationwide, forming a student movement unlike anything this century.

The demonstrations began April 17 at Columbia University as students demanded an end to the Israel-Hamas war, which has killed greater than 34,000 Palestinians within the Gaza Strip, in line with the health ministry there. Israel launched its offensive within the Gaza Strip after Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 250 hostages in an attack on southern Israel on October 7.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in an announcement Thursday that the camp had change into “a focus of serious violence and major disruption.” He said days of clashes between protesters and counter-protesters were endangering people on campus, students couldn't get to class, buildings needed to be closed and classes had been canceled.

“The past week has been one of the most painful periods our UCLA community has ever experienced,” he said. “It has destroyed our sense of belonging and trust and will certainly leave a scar on campus.”

Early Thursday, tons of of law enforcement officials in riot gear streamed onto the UCLA campus. They wore face shields and body armor and held out their batons to distance themselves from protesters wearing helmets and gas masks and chanting: “You want peace.” We want justice.”

For hours, officials warned over loudspeakers that arrests could be made if the gang didn’t disperse. Demonstrators and police pushed and scuffled. Police helicopters were in motion and the sound of lightning struck the air. During the arrests, the police took helmets and protective goggles from the demonstrators.

Police systematically tore apart the camp's barricade of plywood, pallets, metal fencing and trash containers, then tore down canopies and tents.

The law enforcement presence and continued warnings contrasted with the scene Tuesday night when counter-protesters attacked the pro-Palestinian camp. The campus administration and the police didn’t intervene for hours or call for backup. No one was arrested, but at the very least 15 protesters were injured.

The delayed response drew criticism from political leaders, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and officials promised an independent review.

Ariel Dardashti, a UCLA graduate studying global studies and sociology, said no student should feel unsafe on campus.

“It shouldn’t get to the point where students are being arrested,” Dardashti said on campus Thursday.

Dardashti said he could understand the trauma of the Palestinians.

“When my father fled Iran, he prayed that his children would not face anti-Semitism,” Dardashti said. “We are afraid of having to flee again, like our parents did.”

Iranian state television broadcast live images of the police operation at UCLA, as did the pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera in Qatar. Live images from Los Angeles were also broadcast on Israeli television channels.

Israel has branded the protests anti-Semitic, while Israel's critics say it’s using those accusations to silence the opposition. Although some demonstrators were caught on camera making anti-Semitic statements or violent threats, organizers of the protests – a few of whom were Jewish – described it as a peaceful movement to defend Palestinian rights and protest against the war.

President Joe Biden on Thursday defended students' right to peacefully protest but condemned the unrest in recent days.

California Republican leaders criticized university administrators for failing to guard Jewish students and for allowing protests to escalate into “lawlessness and violence.” They called for the firing of executives at UCLA and California State Polytechnic University in Humboldt and pushed for a proposal that might cut university administration salaries.

“We have a whole lot of people at these universities making six-figure salaries, and they stood by,” Republican Assembly Chairman James Gallagher told reporters.

Meanwhile, across the U.S., school protest camps were cleared by police – resulting in more arrests – or voluntarily closed.

An Illinois college professor said he suffered several broken ribs and a broken hand during a pro-Palestinian protest Saturday at Washington University in St. Louis.

In a post on the social platform X, Sandra Tamari said her husband needed surgery on his hand and had nine broken ribs.

Tamari said in an announcement Thursday that it was “a small price to pay for Israel's ongoing genocide in Gaza.” Campus police referred inquiries to the university's communications department, which didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Elsewhere, University of Minnesota officials agreed with protesters to not disrupt commencements. Similar agreements have been reached at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago, Rutgers University in New Jersey and Brown University in Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, a bunch of professors at Columbia University on Thursday condemned school administrators for calling on police to remove protesters in what the group called a “horrible police attack on our students.” Officers stormed right into a constructing on Tuesday, broke up an illustration that had shut down the varsity and took greater than 100 people into custody.

Watson reported from San Diego, Keller reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico and Thompson reported from Buffalo, New York. Associated Press journalists across the country contributed to this report, including Ethan Swope, Krysta Fauria, Leslie Ambriz, John Antczak, Christopher L. Keller, Lisa Baumann, Stefanie Dazio, Jae C. Hong, Colleen Long, Karen Matthews, Sarah Brumfield and Carolyn Thompson, Philip Marcelo, Steve Karnowski and Eugene Johnson.

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