Columbia University protests: A timeline of how we got here

It's been nearly two weeks since dozens of students supporting Palestinians at Columbia University staged a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on the NYC campus.

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In a tweet posted on "X" on April 17, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine – an account with over 14,000 followers – said, "As of 4 AM this morning, Columbia University students have occupied the center of campus, launching our Gaza Solidarity Encampment. We demand divestment and an end to Columbia’s complicity in genocide."

Since then, dozens of students have been arrested, and even some suspended. From the university president testifying before Congress, to the students' first protest, here's a timeline on how we got here:

April 17: University president testifies before Congress

Four months after a contentious congressional hearing led to the resignations of two Ivy League presidents, Columbia University President Nemat Shafik appeared before the same committee and unequivocally denounced antisemitism on her campus, rebutting claims that she has allowed Columbia to become a hotbed of hatred.

Shafik was called before the committee to address questions of antisemitism and the school's response to conflicts on campus over the Israel-Hamas war. 

April 17: Students stage 'Gaza Solidarity Encampment'

At the same time, dozens of students began to stage a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on the university campus.

SkyFOX was over the scene around 10 a.m. Organizers included two groups that Columbia previously suspended for unauthorized protests: Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace. 

April 18: NYPD clears out protesters, arrest dozens

The NYPD arrested more than 100 demonstrators, and removed an encampment.

Several students involved in the protest said they also were suspended from Columbia and Barnard College, including Isra Hirsi, who is the daughter of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Police said 108 people, including Hirsi, were charged with trespassing at the private Ivy League institution. Two people were also charged with obstructing government administration.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams said the city was asked in writing by university officials to remove the encampment.

April 19: NYPD attempts to clear more demonstrators

Several students and pro-Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets again Friday.

NYPD officers were seen trying to clear protestors near Frederick Douglass Boulevard.

Police also barricaded areas outside the campus in Morningside Heights.

April 21: University rabbi urges Jewish students to go home

Columbia University Rabbi urged Jewish students to go home due to "extreme antisemitism and anarchy".

Rabbi Elie Buechler told FOX 5 NY he sent a letter to students via WhatsApp stating, "It deeply pains me to say that I would strongly recommend you return home as soon as possible and remain home until the reality in and around campus has dramatically improved. It is not our job as Jews to ensure our own safety on campus.* No one should have to endure this level of hatred, let alone at school."

April 22: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators return with tents

Tensions among Columbia University students were loud and apparent Sunday, less than a week following the president’s testimony before Congress and days following more than 100 demonstrators' arrests on campus.

With signs, chants and a clear message echoing through the weekend, the Ivy League school campus has become a hot bed for those divided on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war entering its 7th month. 

April 23: NYU pro-Palestinian protesters walk out of class, gather at Washington Square Park

More than 1,000 pro-Palestinian protesters at NYU walked out of class and gathered at Washington Square Park to call for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and demand their school divest from companies that sell weapons in Israel.

Workers spent the morning building a 7-foot tall plywood barrier at Gould Plaza near NYU.

April 23: Columbia University switches to hybrid learning for the rest of the semester

At Columbia University, the main campus switched to hybrid learning for the rest of the semester.

"Safety is our highest priority as we strive to support our students’ learning and all the required academic operations," the Ivy League university's provost, Angela V. Olinto, and chief operating officer, Cas Holloway, said in a statement late Monday.

April 24: Speaker Johnson calls for Columbia president's resignation amid protests

House Speaker Mike Johnson spoke around 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday and called for the Columbia University president to resign.

"The cherished traditions of this university are being overtaken," Johnson said. 

Some Jewish students, meanwhile, say much of the criticism of Israel has veered into antisemitism and made them feel unsafe. They point out that Hamas is still holding hostages taken during the group's Oct. 7 invasion.

April 24: Columbia extends deadline to remove protest encampments 

The university says it's making "important progress" with pro-Palestinian student protesters who set up a tent encampment. The university has extended a deadline to clear out. 

The university said student protesters "have committed to dismantling and removing a significant number of tents." 

A smaller encampment remained on campus Wednesday morning. The university says that there was "constructive dialogue" and that it will continue conversations for 48 hours. 

April 25: Encampments spread from Columbia to FIT, CCNY

As Columbia student protesters remain vigilant at pro-Palestinian encampments set up last week despite clashes with police and the university, more have popped up at college campuses across the U.S., including more in NYC.

Students at the City College of New York and the Fashion Institute of Technology were called to join new encampments Thursday, and so far, no arrests have been made at these institutions.

April 26: Demonstrators say they are at impasse with administrators

Columbia University students who inspired pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country said Friday that they have reached an impasse with administrators and intend to continue their encampment until their demands are met.

The announcement after two days of exhaustive negotiations comes as Columbia's president faces harsh criticism from faculty. The development puts more pressure on university officials to find a resolution ahead of planned graduation ceremonies next month — a problem that campuses from California to Massachusetts are facing.

April 29: Columbia president says university 'will not divest from Israel'

Columbia President Minouche Shafik said the university 'will not divest from Israel' in a statement made Monday morning, as pro-Palestinian supporters continue to stay in encampments on the Ivy League school campus.

Shafik said, in part, "While the University will not divest from Israel, the University offered to develop an expedited timeline for review of new proposals from the students by the Advisory Committee for Socially Responsible Investing, the body that considers divestment matters."

The statement came after a notice was sent by Columbia to protesters in the encampment, saying if they leave by the designated time, which was 2 p.m., and sign a form committing to abide by university policies through June 2025 or an earlier graduation, they can finish the semester in good standing. If not, the letter said, they would be suspended, pending further investigation.

However, activists defied the 2 p.m. deadline with chants, clapping, and drumming from the encampment of more than 300 people. No officials appeared to enter the encampment, with at least 120 tents staying up as the deadline passed.

April 30: Hundreds take over Hamilton Hall

Hundreds of demonstrators took over Hamilton Hall, barricading the entrances and unfurling a Palestinian flag out of a window.

Video showed protesters on Columbia's Manhattan campus locking arms in front of the building and carrying furniture and metal barricades to the building.

The hall’s takeover occurred nearly 12 hours after Monday’s 2 p.m. deadline for the protesters to leave an encampment of around 120 tents or face suspension.

May 1: NYPD arrest 300 in Columbia raid


New York City law enforcement officials surrounded Columbia University after being called in by school officials. 

Video obtained by FOX 5 NY from the NYPD showed the intense moments officers raided Hamilton Hall through a window.

Once inside, police were met with doors barricaded with heavy-duty chains, chairs, vending machines, and other furniture. 

Multiple protesters were taken into custody and taken away from campus on buses.

"It was chaotic," Chief of Police John Chell described the scene as officers used halligan bars and sledgehammers to get further inside the building.  

Students could be seen hiding behind furniture next to sleeping bags inside rooms. 

May 2: Pro-Palestinian protests continue at Fordham, NYU and Stony Brook

The NYPD made more arrests on May 1 following pro-Palestinian demonstrations across NYC, including at the Lincoln Center campus of Fordham University, where police cleared an encampment.

Demonstrations were also heeded at NYU, as hundreds went to show their support for protesters who set up a solidarity encampment there last week. On Long Island, demonstrations were seen at Stony Brook University

May 2: Former President Trump commends NYPD

Former President Donald Trump commended police who cleared pro-Palestinian protesters from college campuses as he arrived in court Thursday morning for another day of his criminal hush money trial, the Associated Press reported.

"It’s a shame. I’m so proud of the New York’s finest. They’re great," Trump told reporters after police cleared demonstrators who had taken over an academic building at Columbia University.

May 2: 15 arrested at Fordham University

The NYPD cleared an encampment on Fordham University's Lincoln Center campus on May 2, making 15 arrests.

Protesters had set up tents inside the Leon Loewenstein Center to show solidarity with students at Columbia University and the City College of New York.

Fordham President Tania Tetlow sent out a letter to the college community, saying: "We draw the line at intrusions into a classroom building, especially by people who are not members of our community."

Tetlow's letter said the decision to involve the NYPD was to protect the campus and that "Fordham students have a right to feel safe and to finish their exams. Period."

May 2: Students refuse to take down tents at NYU

Students at New York University have refused to take down the tents, even though the school has threatened disciplinary action. 

Over the weekend, NYU officials gave student protesters an ultimatum: take down tent city or face "conduct charges." However, the encampment is still standing. So far, the school has not given the NYPD authorization to take it down or make arrests. 

Across the street, counter-protesters were seen chanting and waving Israeli flags.

May 2: Dozens arrested at Stony Brook University

Demonstrations were also seen at Long Island’s Stony Brook University. 

In a statement, Stony Brook University officials said, in part, "This morning at approximately 12:15 am, 29 people were arrested including students, faculty members and others from outside our campus community for violating various legal statutes and university policies."


The statement continued to say: "Protests and demonstrations cannot be allowed to disrupt the academic environment, create safety issues, or violate long-standing university guidelines regarding time, place and manner."

May 3: NYPD dismantle pro-Palestinian encampments at NYU, The New School

Members of the NYPD arrived Friday morning at NYU, as well as The New School in Greenwich Village, to disperse the pro-Palestinian encampments on the campuses, at the request of the NYC universities.

In a post on X, NYPD Deputy Commissioner, Operations Kaz Daughtry said: "#HAPPENINGNOW: @NYU has requested our assistance to disperse the illegal encampment on their property. As per their request, we are on site and our officers will be assisting with the unparalleled professionalism embodied by our police officers."

Demonstrators and police were at a standoff after officers vacated the Gaza Solidarity Encampment. Some packed up their things and left peacefully, while others remained. 

May 6: Columbia cancels university-wide commencement ceremony

Columbia University announced on Monday morning that the school is canceling their university-wide graduation ceremony after weeks of Gaza protests.

In a post on their website, the school said: "Based on their feedback, we have decided to make the centerpiece of our Commencement activities our Class Days and school-level ceremonies, where students are honored individually alongside their peers, rather than the University-wide ceremony that is scheduled for May 15."