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Student Protesters at Columbia Remain Defiant

Dozens of student protesters at Columbia University gathered outside early Friday afternoon, just across from where their tent encampment had been demolished by university officials the day before. Some students had been there through the night. Others, including a few who had been arrested Thursday, had only recently arrived.

There were heaps of blankets, deliveries of water bottles and food, and a faculty speaker, Mahmood Mamdani, an anthropology professor, who congratulated them for remaining there despite the university’s attempts to shut down their demonstration in solidarity with Gaza and for a free Palestinian state.

“You are erasing the line between education and politics,” he told them. “It is a new phase in this mobilization.”

A day after Columbia’s president, Nemat Shafik, called in the police to arrest some 100 students and take down their encampment, the activists showed little sign of losing steam.

The new protest camp, while peaceful, is still officially breaking university rules. Some of the chants — “We don’t want no Zionists here” and “Israel is a racist state” — are the same ones that President Shafik suggested were creating “a harassing and intimidating environment for many of our students.”

But there seemed to be a lull in enforcement, at least for the moment, as university administrators consider whether they should suspend and arrest even more students for a movement that clearly has considerable campus support. One student organizer said on Friday that protesters had been told by campus security that as long as they did not pitch tents, they could remain there as an informal gathering.

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