'Liberation Education,' 'Student Intifada,' and Masked Guards: Here's What Columbia's Hamilton Hall Looks Like Hours After Takeover

Columbia University's Hamilton Hall, decorated with "Student Intifada" and "Liberation Education" banners.
April 30, 2024

MANHATTAN—The student takeover of Columbia University's Hamilton Hall continued into Tuesday afternoon, hours after protesters stormed the building and barricaded its entrance. 

While the exact number of students inside is unknown, Columbia communications head Ben Chang said "dozens" are occupying the hall, while a student protest leader put the number at 60 during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. 

Those inside Hamilton Hall spent time Tuesday hanging new banners from the building's windows, which read "Liberation Education" and "Student Intifada." At one point in the afternoon, an occupant accessed the building's roof and waved a Palestinian flag.

Outside of the hall, student protesters used a pulley system to send supplies into the building through a window. They also set up a miniature encampment outside of the building's steps. Tables, chairs, and metal barriers used to block the building's entrances remained in place. In front of those barriers, masked guards kept watch, using keffiyehs and umbrellas to shield their faces. Not far away, at the original encampment erected on the school's lawn, protesters huddled to discuss strategy. They also congregated at the campus gates, chanting, "There is only one solution, intifada revolution."

It's unclear what Columbia president Minouche Shafik plans to do to end the occupation. On Monday, the school began suspending students who refused to leave the original encampment following a 2 p.m. deadline from Shafik to "voluntarily disperse." One day later, after the storming of Hamilton Hall, Chang said, "students occupying the building face expulsion."

Disciplinary proceedings, however, have largely failed to push protesters off campus. Suspended students who are technically not authorized to access campus without prior approval have participated in the protest—and, in some cases, helped lead it

Students who stormed Hamilton Hall, meanwhile, said they would "not move until Columbia meets every one of our demands." Hours before the takeover, student leaders held a defiant press conference, during which they mocked Shafik's deadline and pledged to remain on campus unless removed "by force."

"We will not be moved unless by force," they said. "We do not abide by university pressure."

Still, Shafik has refused to bring New York City police back to campus—including during the overnight takeover of Hamilton Hall.

As the chaos unfolded—some masked individuals used hammers to break doors and windows, while others pushed, grabbed, and accosted those who attempted to impede the takeover—several students called the police. But law enforcement never arrived. After the dust settled, the New York Police Department revealed why: Shafik "did not want the NYPD to enter and make arrests or charge any individuals," a spokesman told NBC News.

Shafik on Friday said bringing police to campus "at this time would be counterproductive." Chang reiterated that statement in an email sent to the Washington Free Beacon shortly after Shafik's Monday 2 p.m. deadline to vacate the encampment passed. He did not respond to a request for comment on whether Shafik's calculation has changed.

In addition to the student protesters, faculty members flocked to the encampment Monday to help protect those inside. They remained overnight and watched on as students stormed Hamilton Hall. It is unclear whether they will face disciplinary action.

The Free Beacon was on campus overnight as the Hamilton Hall takeover occurred. By 9 a.m. Tuesday, Columbia officials suspended media access to campus "as a safety measure."

Hours later, the school announced a limited "press pool" and allowed the Free Beacon to regain campus access. The school's communications team has not yet decided its press plan for Wednesday, a university spokesman said.