- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2024

It turns out that nearly half of the anti-Israel student protesters taken into custody at Columbia University and the City College of New York weren’t exactly students.

An estimated 134 of the 282 demonstrators arrested late Tuesday — that’s 47.5% — had no affiliation with the two New York colleges, according to preliminary police department data released Thursday.

At Columbia, 32 of the 119 protesters charged had no connection to the school, while 80 did. At CCNY, 102 of the 173 individuals arrested were unaffiliated with the campus and just 68 had a college connection.

The breakdown represented an I-told-you-so moment for New York City Mayor Eric Adams, an ex-cop who had warned for weeks that the campus demonstrations had been co-opted by “professionals” and “outside agitators.”

“As the anti-Israel protests began to escalate, it became abundantly clear that individuals unaffiliated with these schools had entered these different campuses and, in some cases, were even training students in unlawful protest tactics, many which we witnessed escalating into violent conduct,” Mr. Adams said in a Thursday statement. “What is now even clearer is the extent to which outsiders were actually present.”

New York City isn’t alone. Across the nation, universities clearing out the pro-Palestinian encampments are confirming what they long suspected: That outside agitators have infiltrated their campuses, radicalizing students, compromising safety, and making peaceful resolution of the protests virtually impossible.

Rebecca Weiner, NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said the protests were infiltrated by “different individuals who we know from over the years associated with protests, not just in our city, but other cities as well.”

The result was “a change of tactics” in the protest environment that culminated Monday with demonstrators breaking into Hamilton Hall, using zip-ties to create furniture barricades, forcing public safety personnel out of the building, and allegedly threatening a facilities worker.

Other signs that the protest had been breached by outside actors included “the black bloc attire, the breaking of windows, breaking doors, the vandalism, property destruction, the barricading, makeshift weapons that we recovered in the encampment.”

“That change in tactics combined with the presence of known individuals on campus in the lead-up to what happened at Hamilton Hall is why we had a real elevated concern around public safety,” said Ms. Weiner.

In some cases, the outsiders arrested outnumber the students. The University of Texas at Austin reported that of the 45 of the 79 protesters arrested at the campus Monday, or 56%, had zero affiliation with the college.

“These numbers validate our concern that much of the disruption on campus over the past week has been orchestrated by people from outside the University, including groups with ties to escalating protests at other universities around the country,” said the university in a statement.

In addition, the university said it has confiscated from protesters a host of weapons, including “guns, buckets of large rocks, bricks, steel enforced wood planks, mallets, and chains.”

“Staff have been physically assaulted and threatened, and police have been headbutted and hit with horse excrement, while their police cars have had tires slashed with knives,” said the university. “This is calculated, intentional and, we believe, orchestrated and led by those outside our University community.”

UCLA Chancellor Gene D. Block also raised concerns about the growing presence of protesters with no connection to the campus.

“This past Thursday, a group of demonstrators — both members of the UCLA community and others unaffiliated with our campus — established an unauthorized physical encampment on part of Royce Quad, joining those who have set up similar presences at universities around the country,” said Mr. Block in a statement.

At UCLA, classes were canceled Wednesday after dueling groups of protesters clashed the previous night before being separated by police.

The identities and affiliations of the outside agitators are largely unknown, but the NYPD did release a video of one professional “protest consultant” identified as 63-year-old Lisa Fithian.

Ms. Fithian, who has reportedly been arrested more than 80 times, is shown on the video showing Columbia protesters how to barricade the doors to Hamilton Hall with furniture.

A 2012 article in Mother Jones called her “Professor Occupy,” reported that labor unions and activist groups pay her $300 per day “to run demonstrations and teach their members tactics for taking over the streets.”

Mr. Adams said the outside agitators are more than local troublemakers, calling them part of a global movement to “radicalize young people.”

“This is a global problem,” he said. “Young people are being influenced by those who are professionals and radicalizing our children, and I’m not going to allow that to happen as the mayor of the city of New York.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2024 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide