Pro-Palestinian demonstrations at American universities have taken a troubling turn as outside agitators began attacking students and using protests to further their own agendas. School officials have increasingly called on local law enforcement and, in some cases, the National Guard to help remove the agitators and restore order.

In late April, the New York Police Department (NYPD) responded to Columbia University’s request for assistance in removing protesters who had unlawfully occupied a building. On April 30, NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Operations Kaz Daughtry posted updates on social media regarding the incident at Columbia, where his department was called to “take back the campus” following property damage, intimidation, and violent acts.

According to Daughtry, NYPD officers were actively “dispersing” individuals barricaded inside campus buildings and removing “unlawful encampments” to restore order. His posts included photographs and video clips showing officers in the process of regaining control.

Columbia University President Minouche Shafik sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Michael Gerber detailing the unrest on campus. According to Shafik, an unknown person had accessed Hamilton Hall and remained hidden until closing time, then allowed others to enter, leading to an occupation that trapped two security guards inside. While the university believed some invaders were students, Shafik noted that outside individuals unaffiliated with Columbia appeared to have led the occupation.

Shafik explained that the invaders were trespassing and vandalizing property and had also set up encampments on the university’s Morningside campus and Math Lawn. As negotiations with the protesters had broken down, she requested that the NYPD clear Hamilton Hall and both encampments and maintain a police presence through May 17 to prevent further disruptions.

While emphasizing the need for a strong response, Shafik urged police officers to exercise caution when removing individuals, prioritizing the safety of the entire campus community, especially students.