Pro-Palestinian Columbia students reject New York DA deals

Pro-Palestinian Columbia students reject New York DA deals
Students arrested in April for occupying a building at Columbia have rejected dismissal offers in solidarity with those who received harsher punishments.
2 min read
Washington, DC
21 June, 2024
Columbia students hold a press conference in front of the Manhattan Criminal Court. [Brooke Anderson/TNA]

Pro-Palestinian activists in New York who were arrested for occupying a building at Columbia University in April and were then offered deals by the district attorney have chosen not to accept the offers in solidarity with those facing harsher punishment for participating in the same protest.

On Thursday afternoon, following their first court appearance for the charges in the Manhattan Criminal Court, the students, speaking about news of the 30 whose charges were dismissed (out of 46 arrested), held a short press conference by the courthouse.

Surrounded by reporters and fellow students, they vowed to continue speaking out for Palestinian rights and other social justice causes.

In April, pro-Palestinian protesters occupied the building Hamilton Hall, renaming it Hind's Hall after a six-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in Israel's shelling of Gaza.

Since the 7 October surprise attack by Hamas on Israel, Israeli airstrikes have killed around 38,000 Palestinians, mainly civilians. The majority of the Gaza's population has been displaced and famine is widespread. Multiple rights groups have called Israel's actions genocide. 

The building occupation was followed by 46 arrests, which included students, staff and community members outside the university. 

"At the time of the charged conduct, the defendants were either staff employed by, or students enrolled in, Columbia University, and are now subject to student or staff disciplinary proceedings," the Manhattan DA reportedly stated in a press release.

Students at the gathering on Thursday said a tactic by the police and university administration has been to try to divide students, staff and others, a key reason that those who have had their charges dismissed have rejected the deal.

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"All of these cases should be dismissed, whether it's at Columbia, CCNY [City College of New York], or Berkeley. I strongly believe that this is intentional, that they're trying to separate using the outside agitator narrative, even though we were all working together," Aidan Parisi, 27, a master's student in social work at Columbia, whose own charges have been dismissed, told The New Arab.

At the gathering, students at Columbia emphasised their hope that students at less prominent institutions, such as CCNY, which saw 22 arrests, would also be recognised for their activism.

"I think the reason we're getting so much attention is because we're an Ivy League," said Parisi. "We're not the first, but we're the most prominent. It's our responsibility to keep the movement going, but not water it down."