Columbia Student Groups Hold 'Autonomous Rally' Outside Campus, Project 'Escalate for Gaza' Message on Hamilton Hall

'The student intifada will live on,' says the Columbia SJP

(Alex Kent/Getty Images)
May 2, 2024

The Columbia University student groups behind the "Gaza Solidarity" encampment held what they called an "autonomous rally" outside campus, where they projected the words "Escalate for Gaza" on the side of Hamilton Hall, the building protesters stormed and occupied earlier in the week.

"Palestine Organizers" from Columbia and City University of New York held a Wednesday night press conference outside of CUNY's campus, where they shared their "experiences" from the police sweeps that occurred on both campuses roughly 24 hours prior.

Protesters then traveled a mile down Amsterdam Avenue to Columbia's campus, where keffiyeh-clad individuals lit flares, waved Palestinian flags, and chanted "Gaza" and "free, free, free Palestine." One attendee was filmed holding a sign that read, "Resistance by any means necessary." Later on in the evening, protesters projected images onto the side of Columbia Hall, reading, "Escalate for Gaza," "Israel bombs Columbia pays," and "Columbia funds genocide."

The demonstration shows that Columbia president Minouche Shafik's battle with unauthorized student protesters is far from over, even after Shafik deployed New York City police to break up the "Gaza Solidarity" encampment and to remove those who seized and occupied Hamilton Hall.

The morning after Tuesday night's sweep, Columbia University Apartheid Divest issued a statement pledging to come back "stronger, smarter, and better prepared to stand our ground" and to "continue building a student movement that will take back our campuses."

"Our people arrested today will soon be free and ready to fight again with even greater insight into the oppressor's tools and weaknesses," the group wrote. Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine issued a similar statement, which called to continue "the struggle for Palestinian liberation."

"The student intifada will live on," the statement said.

Both groups were behind the "Gaza Solidarity" encampment that plagued the school for roughly two weeks. They were also behind the Wednesday night rally.

Columbia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The student groups had help in organizing the rally from Within Our Lifetime, the anti-Semitic activist organization based in New York City that was banned from Instagram over posts that lauded terrorism against Jews.

Within Our Lifetime promoted the rally on X, formerly Twitter, sharing a flyer with the event's details under the caption "ALL OUT TONIGHT FOR CUNY & COLUMBIA." Footage from the rally also shows Within Our Lifetime organizer and Harvard University graduate student Abdullah Akl leading chants.

During a Palestinian "Land Day" protest in New York City last month, Akl led a chant to "strike, strike Tel Aviv. Abu Obeida, our beloved." Obeida, a Hamas terrorist, is the spokesman for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing that led the Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

Akl has also used his social media accounts to call for "intifada" against Jews, contend that "there is no state called Israel," and encourage his followers to "teach your children that the Zionist entity is an enemy," the Washington Free Beacon reported in January.

In addition to Akl, Columbia University Apartheid Divest has long collaborated with Within Our Lifetime's founder, Nerdeen Kiswani.

Kiswani was one of three featured speakers at the infamous "Palestinian Resistance 101" event held on Columbia's campus in March. Kiswani and other speakers routinely called for violence against Jews and praised Hamas and Hezbollah. At one point, Kiswani urged students to openly laud Oct. 7 and Palestinian "resistance," even as she acknowledged that Hamas is "considered a terrorist organization."

"Don't acquiesce to the idea [of], well, 'Oh, they're considered a terrorist organization, so we shouldn't talk about resistance," Kiswani said. "We're kind of like the test subjects or the guinea pigs. We're going to put ourselves out on the line, and you know, if people are okay with it, then they'll jump on it later."

"We have the right to return home," she said, "and we will get that right by any means necessary."

Columbia banned Kiswani from campus over her participation in the event. Weeks later, however, she made it through the university gates to give a speech to student protesters in the Columbia encampment.