Rikki Schlott

Rikki Schlott

US News

I had a front-row seat to the ‘liberated zone’ madness at Columbia University

Columbia University — supposedly New York City’s most prestigious college — has descended into absolute chaos in the name of Palestinian liberation.

On Thursday, I watched as NYPD officers in riot gear cleared a makeshift “liberated zone” encampment where students had pitched tents to protest Columbia’s “complicity” in genocide.

Eventually, around 100 anti-Israel protesters were arrested — one for repeatedly hitting a cop, according to the NYPD.

Students named the cluster of tents the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.” Rikki Schlott for NY Post

The campus was closed to the public, but because I’m a part-time student at Columbia, I got a front-row seat to the madness.

On my way into the locked-down quad, I passed dozens of NYPD officers standing by as protesters unaffiliated with the university shouted “Intifada revolution!”

One young demonstrator was bickering with a cop about why her CUNY ID card didn’t get her past the security checkpoint.

Inside the gates, megaphones and drums echoed as hundreds of my Ivy League classmates marched in procession, waving Palestinian flags while chanting, “Free Palestine” and “Divulge! Divest!”

The vast majority seemed interested in protecting their identities — wearing keffiyehs and N-95s to obscure their faces.

They weren’t interested in talking to the media. Funny how shy they get outside their own echo chamber.

As a part-time Columbia student, I was able to gain access to the locked-down campus. Rikki Schlott for NY Post

Within the makeshift encampment, occupiers were hardly saving the world: They casually mingled, sipping Dunkin’ Donuts coffee next to signs reading, “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” and “Join Us.”

These were no righteous freedom fighters — though they are surely self-righteous. These are radicals receiving a $90,000-a-year education and throwing temper tantrums.

One protester handed me a flyer. When she tried to hand one to the yarmulke-wearing student behind me, he turned her down.

Student occupiers handed out “Columbia University Apartheid Divest” flyers. Rikki Schlott for NY Post

“We created the Gaza Solidarity Encampment in the face of Columbia’s unwillingness to halt its complicity in the escalating genocide against the Palestinian People,” it read. “Our encampment will remain until Columbia University divests all finances, including the endowment, from corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine.”

But the encampment, which popped up on Wednesday morning, didn’t last long.

Around 2 p.m., NYPD officers with loudspeakers warned students that anyone who didn’t clear out of the encampment promptly risked arrest.

Columbia students were arrested by NYPD officers on Thursday. Robert Miller

Columbia’s outdoor space policy expressly prohibits camping tents and requires that “all tenting must be ordered through Columbia Facilities Events Administration.” Whoops.

Onlookers screamed, “NYPD, KKK, IDF, you’re all the same,” as their wrists were zip-tied by NYPD officers who escorted — and in some cases dragged — the students out of their “liberated zone.”

One lesbian couple screamed “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as the cops walked by. I’m guessing no minds were changed.

Students who refused to leave the encampment were escorted out by the NYPD. Rikki Schlott for NY Post

The move to clear the encampment was authorized by Columbia president Minouche Shafik the day after she testified before Congress about antisemitism on campus.

Unlike her counterparts from Penn and Harvard, she was able to confirm that calling for the genocide of Jews is, in fact, a violation of Columbia’s code of conduct.

“This morning, I had to make a decision that I hoped would never be necessary,” Shafik wrote in an email to the university community. “I took this extraordinary move because these are extraordinary circumstances.” 

Students waved “Lesbians 4 Liberation” posters. Rikki Schlott for NY Post

Indeed, these were extraordinary circumstances, representing an extraordinary institution’s fall from grace.

As I watched students waving “Lesbians for Liberation” and “Queers for Palestine” signs in front of Butler Library — which has the names of great thinkers like Sophocles, Voltaire and Alexander Hamilton inscribed on its facade — I found it hard to ignore just how profoundly the university has failed in upholding its ideals. 

The Ivy League might once have been a bastion of knowledge and excellence.

But today it’s more accurately described as a cesspool of radicalism and bigotry.