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Professors Slam Columbia’s Response to Chemical Skunk Attack on Students at Pro-Palestine Protest

Written by on 25/01/2024

Students at Columbia University in New York held an “emergency protest” Wednesday over the school’s response to an attack on members of Columbia University Apartheid Divest at a rally on campus last Friday. Police in New York are investigating the attack on pro-Palestinian students, who say they were sprayed with a foul-smelling chemical. Eight students were reportedly hospitalized, complaining of burning eyes, headaches, nausea and other symptoms. Organizers allege the attack was carried out by two students who are former members of the Israeli military, using a chemical weapon known as “skunk” that the Israeli military and security forces regularly deploy against Palestinians. The university responded to the attack by first scolding the organizers for holding an “unsanctioned” rally, then later said it had banned the suspects from campus while police investigate. This comes after Columbia administrators banned the local chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace in November, with students describing a climate of censorship and retaliation for pro-Palestinian activism on campus. “Overall, it’s been a very clumsy handling,” Columbia professor Mahmood Mamdani says of the school’s response to student protests and campus safety. We also speak with Columbia Law School professor Katherine Franke, who says concerned faculty “have been spending an enormous amount of time protecting our students from the university itself.”

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