‘The Squad’ slams Columbia for suspending Ilhan Omar’s daughter as pro-Palestine protests return

New York police arrested more than 100 demonstrators from Columbia and Barnard College

Mike Bedigan
Friday 19 April 2024 20:37 BST
Pro-Palestine protesters occupy Columbia university lawn

Members of “The Squad” have hit out at Columbia University in New York after the daughter of one of its original members was suspended following a pro-Palestine protest on the campus.

On Thursday New York police arrested more than 100 demonstrators from Columbia and Barnard College, including Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar. The protest camp was dismantled by authorities but has since been rebuilt.

Ms Omar was one of the first four members of “The Squad” – a group of nine individuals known for being among the most progressive and left-wing members of Congress – alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida.

Students occupy the campus ground of Columbia University in support of Palestinians, in New York City, on April 19, 2024. Officers cleared out a pro-Palestinian campus demonstration on April 18 (AFP via Getty Images)

Following news of the arrests, Ms Hirsi posted online that despite having no previous disciplinary record at Columbia in three years of study, she was one of three students who were suspended over the protests.

Ms Hirsi, an organiser for Columbia University’s Apartheid Divest group, wrote on X: “In my 3 years at @BarnardCollege I have never been reprimanded or received any disciplinary warnings.

“I just received notice that I am 1 of 3 students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide.”

She continued: “Those of us in Gaza Solidarity Encampment will not be intimidated. We will stand resolute until our demands are met.

“Our demands include divestment from companies complicit in genocide, transparency of @Columbia’s investments and FULL amnesty for all students facing repression.”

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

Responding to Hirsi’s post, Ms Ocasio-Cortez wrote: “What is going on here @BarnardCollege @Columbia?

“How does a student with no disciplinary record suddenly get to a suspension less than 24 hours after a nonviolent protest? What merits asymmetric crackdowns on Palestinian human rights protests?”

Fellow squad member Ms Tlaib described the alleged disciplinary action as “appalling”.

“From UM to Vanderbilt to USC to Columbia, students across our country are being retaliated against for using their constitutional rights to protest genocide. It’s appalling,” she wrote on X.

Students had been protesting on the Columbia campus since early Wednesday, opposing Israeli military action in Gaza and demanding the school divest from companies they claim “profit from Israeli apartheid."

The university’s president Namat Shafik previously issued a statement saying the school had warned protesters on Wednesday that they would be suspended if the encampment was not removed.

School officials decided on Thursday to call in police and clear out the demonstrators, she said. “The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies,” Ms Shafik wrote.

Ms Shafik also said the university tried through several channels "to engage with their concerns and offered to continue discussions if they agreed to disperse.”

The school said it was still identifying students involved in the protest and added more suspensions would be forthcoming.

The suspension of Ms Omar’s daughter comes after the congresswoman questioned Ms Shafik on Wednesday at a hearing in Congress about the school’s targeting of pro-Palestinian protesters.

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