Police Investigate Attacks on Pro-Palestine Protestors at Columbia University

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The New York Police Department (NYPD) launched an investigation this week into an alleged chemical attack on students who were protesting in support of Palestine at Columbia University on Friday. Protest participants reported being sprayed with a chemical during the demonstration, resulting in symptoms including nausea, abdominal pain, headaches, and irritated eyes. Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) stated that eight students required hospitalization as a result of the incident.

“Numerous Columbia and Barnard students who attended a protest later reported being sprayed with a foul-smelling substance that required students to seek medical treatment,” reads a statement from Dennis Mitchell, Columbia’s interim provost. “…We condemn in the strongest possible terms any threats or acts of violence directed toward anyone in our community. The University is committed to taking urgent action with the appropriate authorities in any such cases. The safety of every single member of this community is paramount.”

The university’s department of public safety is working with local and federal authorities, and those identified as potential perpetrators have been banned from the campus. Surveillance footage revealed two individuals spraying an unknown substance on a light pole before the pro-Palestinian rally, police report. Mitchell stated that, pending further information, the attack could constitute a hate crime, but so far it does not fall within the NYPD’s guidelines of a hate crime investigation.

The investigation is ongoing, and no arrests have been made. So far, Columbia and the NYPD have not provided direct information about the identity of the perpetrators. 

The incident follows prior tensions at Columbia University, where two pro-Palestinian organizations, SJP and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), were banned in November for allegedly violating campus procedures. The bans have led to ongoing demonstrations on the campus.