Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

NYPD On Columbia University Campus, Telling Protesters To Disperse; NYPD Enters Columbia, Students Told To Shelter In Place; NYPD Begins Arresting Protesters As Officers Enter Campus; CNN Follows Latest Developments On Columbia University Protests. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 30, 2024 - 22:00   ET



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): But they do not use tear gas. They said they use they're using flash bang grenades in there. So, that gives you a sense of what is happening in Hamilton Hall as they as they make their way in and try to make arrests and bring order back to Columbia University. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST (voice over): Miguel, we are staying on the story as it develops throughout the night. Right now, I want to hand things over to my colleague, John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST (voice over): Thank you so much, Anderson.

And on your screen right now, you can see what we have been watching develop over the last hour or so. Police have moved into Columbia University to move those pro-Palestinian demonstrators out of the building that they have occupied since last night, hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement you can see have swarmed onto the campus or, in the case of the screen you're looking at right now, the picture you're looking right now, just off campus.

We have seen law enforcement move people onto buses, presumably under arrest. We've also seen the police simply move people off the campus and let them go on their way. We have seen no violent encounters between police and protesters as of now, and we have seen police move into Hamilton Hall itself. That is the building that was occupied overnight by these protesters.

Let me read you a statement from Columbia University, which explains how this all has been taking place over the last hour. The statement reads, a little after 9:00 P.M. this evening, the NYPD arrived on campus at the university's request. This decision was made to restore safety and order to our community. We regret the protesters have chosen to escalate the situation through their actions.

After the university learned overnight that Hamilton Hall had been occupied, vandalized and blockaded, we were left with no choice. Columbia public safety personnel were forced out of the building and a member of our facilities team was threatened. We will not risk the safety of our community or the potential for further escalation.

The statement continues, the leadership team, including the board of trustees, met throughout the night and early into the morning consulting with security experts and law enforcement to determine the best plan to protect our students in the entire Columbia community. We made the decision, they say, early in the morning that it was a law enforcement matter and that the NYPD were best positioned to determine and execute the appropriate response.

This is important, what they say next. We believe that the group that broke into and occupied the building is led by individuals who are not affiliated with the university. Sadly, this dangerous decision followed more than a week of what had been productive discussions with representatives of the west lawn encampment.

They go on to say they've been moving people out all day, resulting finally in what you are seeing on your screen tonight. This is just one of the images that we have our eyes on right now. Again, this is just off campus.

Let's go right to Julia Vargas Jones, CNN producer who was on campus for most of the day, right in front of Hamilton Hall, but was just moved off.

Julia, tell us what you're seeing now. What's happening where you are?

JULIA VARGAS JONES, CNN PRODUCER: John, I'm just going to swing around a little bit so you understand where we are. This is Amsterdam Avenue and this is 114.

So, up this way, I don't know how much you can actually be here. I'm sorry. We're just kind of walking through the crowd. This is where we were pushed. We were pushed out of Columbia University through those gates and pushed into this kind of -- it's not really a kettle because we're not getting arrested, but we were pushed into this area with barricades, myself, I'm a student at Columbia University and hundreds of others.

People that were protesting inside were also pushed out. People that were making this human chain outside of Hamilton Hall, they were pushed out. They made another human chain outside 114th Street, and, eventually, NYPD just forcefully removed them. They did not get arrested. This is the key difference here. They looked like students to me, I can't tell you if they were or not. And then we got pushed into this little area.

Right now it's a standstill. If I can go in to, you know, get my things. It's very difficult to understand where police wants us to go eventually right now. We're just sitting here at this corner in the middle of the protest with nowhere else to go.

Up here, up this way, we have buses, NYPD buses. I can't tell if there are people inside those buses or not moving that way. And then now we see an emergency medical vehicle turning into 114th Street. They are going -- this is the way that they pushed all of all of the protesters and journalists.

So, not sure all of this is blocked off and police is not letting us move anywhere else. This is where we have to stay for the time being. [22:05:01]

BERMAN (voice over): Julia, hang on one second here, just so people understand. There is Amsterdam Avenue, which runs north and south. There is Broadway, which runs north and south. In between Broadway and Amsterdam is Columbia University, basically between 114th Street and 116th or 118th Street, if you go up a little bit further north of that. So, Julia is on one end of the university where people have been pushed out.

Two questions quickly, Julia. One, it looks like it's raining now. If you can confirm, it's raining now, which may have an impact. It may have an impact on the crowds there, the people still outside. And who are the people? You're looking at a map right now, just what I was describing, you can see North, South, Broadway, who are the people standing beside you?

JONES: John, there is no nowhere for us to go. I don't think that we can get out of here right now.

Look, I see a lot of students, a lot of student press, a lot of people from the journalism school, which is where I what I'm affiliated with as well, and people that were, that were just outside Hamilton Hall protesting. So, it's a mix of, of students, people that were there protesting that we don't know and can't confirm if are affiliated with the university or not. This is just the situation that just pushed us all into the same corner at 114th and Amsterdam.

BERMAN (voice over): All right. Julia Vargas Jones, stay safe. Don't go far. Let us know if there are any developments where you are.

I want to bring in John Miller, CNN Senior Law Enforcement and Terror Analyst right now. John, I have to say, out of the corner of my eye, I saw you on the phone, which generally means you're finding out information. What's the latest you're hearing on what is happening up at Columbia?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST (voice over): So, police obviously swept the group that was in front of Hamilton Hall off. Some of them who ended up on those buses are those are going to be people who are in custody. Those who are swept out through the gates are people who elected not to be arrested and agreed to leave. So, we're going to have some arrest numbers, but probably coming to us later because they're operating out of multiple locations to do that tally.

They did make entrance into Hamilton Hall, from what I understand, and this is all preliminary. So you have to assume some of it could change, that there weren't a great deal of people in terms of numbers inside the building.

When they made entry, they used distraction devices or what we would call flash bangs. These are things that go flash and then bang so that they could overcome any resistance, booby traps, or anything that was waiting for them inside. And then they did a floor by floor search, which did not produce a lot of people. They are going from the second to last floor now to the top floor. So, the building is nearly cleared in the first instance. They'll do a secondary search just to clean up behind that. But that's pretty much where we are now.

So, you know, if you talk about what our reporter on the scene was saying about, you know, people were pushed out, they were put into pens, it feels like, from a tactical standpoint, they want to create a corridor, a portal, so that when they have these people who are under arrest on these buses, that the buses will have a clear path out and that the street will be open and not occupied and they can take them down to this mass arrest processing center.

BERMAN (voice over): An unknown number of arrests, you say, so far. Dozens? Hundreds? Any sense?

MILLER (voice over): I'm going to -- just based on the visuals, it appears to be at least dozens. That could trip the triple digits because there were a large number of people there. But, you know, as we learned from Ms. Vargas, a lot of them were pushed out of the gates. And those are people who decided to forego the process of being arrested.

Now, you know, things have developed there over the last couple of days. Protest leaders from out of town people, like Lisa Fithian, who is the author of the book, Shut It Down, who is very adept at coaching groups on how to do protests, how to do disruption, how to do vandalism and physical damage, how to handle mass arrest situations, have been up there talking to them, working with them. So, a lot has changed over the past 48 hours in terms of where they were.

BERMAN (voice over): All right. We are being told dozens have been arrested. That is so far. We also did get word from Julia Vargas Jones on the scene that a lot of people were simply moved away, pushed away. And I imagine it is to an officer's discretion whether to arrest or just remove people from the premises.

John Miller just reporting that the police who did enter Hamilton Hall used flash bangs.


They moved through fairly quickly, and there were not a lot of people actually in Hamilton Hall, and they are close, they think, to clearing the building or at least seeing every part of the building.

MILLER (voice over): One interesting point to add there, what we're seeing on social media is reports from students saying that tear gas was deployed. The NYPD almost never uses tear gas and saying that they did not use tear gas tonight. I think that's the smoke from the flash bangs that they're probably reading as that.

BERMAN (voice over): Yes, and you're looking at police now walking kind of past one of our cameras right there in a mass movement. Unclear whether they are moving to Hamilton Hall or moving away from Hamilton Hall.

With us now also is Felipe Rodriguez, a retired NYPD officer. And if you could just explain what John just said to us about using the flash bangs to get in. We did hear from a police spokesman a short time ago who did reiterate what John just said, which is that the NYPD does not use tear gas, but how do you imagine they went through that building?

FELIPE RODRIGUEZ, RETIRED NYPD DETECTIVE (voice over): It's almost like a tactical situation where the almost thing is to get through it safely. So, a flash bang is just a very large concussion grenade, and what it's made to do is disorient the person. So, if they had a preemptive type of tactical thing that they were going to attack an officer, it now makes them also a little bit dizzy because it messes with their equilibrium. So, it does give the officers a tactical advantage.

We never want to go in there with the use of excessive force. So, if we can mitigate that from the beginning, it was a good tactical choice to use them. It's just not often seen in New York City.

BERMAN (voice over): Shimon Perez, if you are with us. I'm not sure if we have Shimon right now. Shimon, if you can hear me --


BERMAN (voice over): Give us a sense of what you're seeing.

PROKUPECZ: Okay, so we're on Amsterdam 116, so we're outside Hamilton Hall here. This is where the police went in. You know, it's just such strategic planning that went into this. And you just wonder what, how much time was the NYPD planning for this because the way they came in here just over my left shoulder -- I'm going to try to show you.

Can we just show -- I just want to show this side over here. Is there a way to do that? The number of emergency services vehicles. John, I've never seen this kind of response at a scene. I mean, there are at least a dozen to 20 emergency services vehicles here. And then, of course, we saw many of them walk to this heavily armed truck. It's what they call a Bearcat. And then they walked up through that window and then entered Hamilton Hall.

It's just stunning pictures, to think that this is a university Columbia, Columbia University, that the police were entering in such a way because the doors were barricaded. The group broke in the morning and it's been there all day. They unfurled flags here with signs here today. They were up on the roof at one point.

So, the NYPD really spent the day planning for this and then surged, I mean, hundreds, if not at least a thousand officers here. I mean, you have officers from the search teams. You have officers from other precincts, the emergency services officers. The response was just enormous.

And now most of the officers are just standing around. We're seeing some protesters. We're hearing the chants of students, are gathered outside here. Some are up here on a bridge or watching to see what's going to happen and what the next steps will be. But right now, you know, all eyes and everything is on Hamilton Hall as we await to see what the next steps are. Are the police going to bring anybody out from inside?

And, you know, you can hear the protesters there. They're shouting shame at the officers every time a group of officers would move through an area. We would hear that shame, shame towards the officers, but, you know, this is such an escalation here.

But what started it, we have to remember, is what happened here early this morning. You know, the fact that you had outside groups, the NYPD has said so, the college has said so, the fact that they broke into this hall, the fact that they snuck onto the campus, we believe some of them snuck on around 2:00 yesterday when the campus would allow the press, the media, to get on the campus of the college, they snuck on.

And so they spent the morning, early morning planning this and they got inside, and this was a game changer, and just talking to sources all day, John, they were waiting.


They were waiting all day to get word from the college that they could do this. The NYPD wanted to do this. They felt it was necessary. It was needed. And there was a lot of concern that if they didn't do this today, this would only escalate. There were concerns for other members of outside groups coming in, trying to escalate this even further.

So, in doing this, I mean, these are going to be images that are going to last a lifetime, right? I mean, this kind of response on a university in the United States, you know, in many ways, sometimes it's just unfathomable in such a, in such a situation. But that's exactly what happened here.

The response was -- you know, John, I've covered so many protests through the years here in New York, especially. I've never seen a response like this. They came prepared, they came in force, and they came to send a message.

And right now, we're just seeing so many of the officers still out here, standing around, things are calm, people are chanting we could even hear some, it sounds like chants that are coming from inside the campus as the police are just standing around. And right now, really, John, all eyes are on Hamilton Hall as we await to see if anybody is brought out and what the next steps are here.

BERMAN (voice over): Yes. Shimon Prokupecz, who's on the street there, near that enormous police presence.

I would just note that as big as the police presence and as many of these protests, as we've all covered, one thing that we have not seen here yet, that we often see, almost always see, is a rash of injuries or violent clashes. We haven't seen that yet with our eyes here. That's not to say it hasn't happened, and we won't learn of that shortly, but this has seemed fairly organized so far.

Let's get right to Miguel Marquez right now. Miguel, just so people know, it's the right side of our screen where Miguel is. Tell us what you're seeing, Miguel. MARQUEZ: Yes. So, we are on a hundred and 14th Street, just near Amsterdam Avenue. This bus that you were looking at here, this is the second bus filled with arrestees that is now leaving this area. It's heading toward Amsterdam Avenue. When it gets down there, the last bus that tried to get out, you can see all the people on there that are arrested, still shouting, still yelling, many of them wearing keffiyehs.

There's a large number of people who are trying to block the buses on Amsterdam Avenue as they get down there. Police move down there, a large contingent of police officers down there to control that crowd so that buses can get out. We have seen dozens of people arrested.

The gates just here, where we're standing next to, if you go up that gate and took a right, you'd be basically at Hamilton Hall. So, It sounds like, if there weren't many people in there, that most of the people that we've already seen come out of these gates probably came from Hamilton Hall.

What I'm curious about is the encampment. If you went up this gate and went left, you'd end up near Butler Library, which is here, and the encampment, which is in the center lawn of Columbia University. It's not clear how many people they've moved out of that encampment.

Ken, if you would just move around, I don't know if you can see it, but there is a large number of police and protesters. They're trying to stop the bus down at the end of the street. The bus has gotten out though, it's not clear.

So, there were protesters much of the day -- come back over here. There were protesters much of the day at Amsterdam Avenue. So, some of those people may have been arrested. There were also protesters at the main gate Columbia University main gate on 116th Street about four hours. They just marched off. There were 200 protesters and they just marched off when they went north. It sounds like they ended up at City College, which is about 20 blocks north, and they had the flares and they were they were going to City College. It sounds like it was a bit of coordination on the side of the protesters.

Protesters on the 116th side, we were there, they were going through with everybody the tactics that they were going to use tonight and what to do if they were arrested and how it was all going to go. We may be bringing out more arrestees now out of this gate. This is where we've seen most of them come out. Some of them -- no, this just was like a faculty member or somebody who's coming out of the gate right now. There are workers that are coming out as well that we will see sometimes.

But most of the arrests we've seen tonight have come out of this gate. We haven't seen any for quite some time now. But there may be arrests around the corner where Shimon is on Amsterdam Avenue. It looks like buses are moving over to that direction as well, so they can bring people out of that area as well. John?

BERMAN (voice over): All right. Miguel, keep us posted as to what you see there, particularly if there are more people being brought out or arrested.

Let's get back to Julia Vargas Jones to give us a sense, Julia, of what you're seeing. I'm glad we can see you on the right hand side of our screen.


JONES: John, two things. One, we're seeing a staging of NYPD coming out of 114th. You can see here behind me. Right behind them, I don't know if you can see, there are people coming out of windows from, I believe this is Hamilton Hall, coming out -- John Jay, John Jay. I'm sorry, this is John Jay Building. It's a building right next to it, showing just with their phone.

This kind of speaks to the whole question, you know, something that I've mentioned before. It's like what does this mean for the Columbia community? And I'm speaking now also as a student here. It is unfathomable that this is happening on our campus, this level of division, this level of -- I mean, I know we said there haven't been violent altercations. That is true. I have not witnessed any violence happening here, but we did just see a bus with people, NYPD bus with people in it, they had keffiyehs on. I don't know, I'm guessing this is the people that were outside or inside of Hamilton Hall that just went up Amsterdam towards, I suppose, Miguel's location just a block north of us.

Overall, I mean, now, finally, the good news is that it's stopped raining. So, it's giving us a little bit of a respite. But like I mentioned, we're kind of kettled here, John. There isn't really anywhere for us to go. We're waiting for orders from the NYPD of whether or not we can go back inside the Columbia campus.

As of now, I'm really not sure. I mean, I have my student I.D. here and I don't know like what this will do if I can actually go back inside at all. I think we're gearing up to have a long night.

And to Shimon's point earlier, this has been so organized and calm. And the level of police presence, you know, is giving me a little bit of flashback to 2020 and covering the (INAUDIBLE) across the U.S., except there are no altercations. There is no violence. It's been very common. Like I mentioned to you earlier, some of the students that did not want to leave the university perimeter instead of being arrested, they were just removed.

So, the NYPD just grabbed a couple of people and pushed them out, meaning, I think that there is a level of concern for the optics of this as well. It really is an attempt to -- if this is really an attempt to de escalate, this has to be the approach that they take.

BERMAN (voice over): Well, Julia, hang on one second. You may be interested in this information as a Columbia student. We're just getting word that Columbia University has made a request with the New York Police Department to retain a presence on campus through at least May 17th. They say that is to maintain order and ensure that encampments are not reestablished. That was from a letter sent by University President Minouche Shafik to Michael Gerber, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner of Legal Matters. So, Julia, there will be a police presence at Columbia for some time for several weeks.

And I should note that is through what I believe to be Columbia graduation, which is May 15th. So, the police will be there in some way until May 17th. How do you imagine that might go over with your fellow students at the university?

JONES: Well, I mean, graduation is May 15th. That is my graduation as well, John. I have family coming from Brazil to come watch me, you know, walk across the stage and get my diploma. But -- and I hope, of course, as everyone does, that this can happen.

But at the same time, is there a climate for celebration for graduation to move on? I mean, I think that, you know, I spoke to a lot of students on campus today and people were just feeling caught in between. And I don't really see celebration being something that we flock to in the coming weeks. And if police is going to be on campus, that will even dampen the mood even more. I can't imagine people wanting -- I'm interested to see who will actually attend graduation.

Here's another bus. I can't quite see inside, but, yes, it looks like people with their faces covered could be us, another bus of protesters being taken away, presumably arrested.

And you hear the protesters chanting shame at the NYPD. It is tough bias (ph), John.

BERMAN (voice over): And, again, the news is, is that the New York Police Department will remain with a presence on campus through May 17th. May 15th, of course, is graduation where our Julia Vargas Jones will be walking, earning her degree. I have to say, you've more than earned your journalism degree over the last 24 hours or so, Julia. So, celebration or not, congratulations to you on that and all the work you've done.


We have much more coverage just ahead. We are just getting word that some of the protesters have moved about 20 blocks north. That's what you're looking at right there. That is City College for those who know New York well, the campus there.

We're going to get a live report from there right after this.


BERMAN (voice over): All right. Welcome back. This is CNN's special live coverage. Police have moved in to Columbia University, entering Hamilton Hall, where protesters had taken over the building, seized the building overnight last night.


The police have now moved through the building and we believe removed almost everyone from inside. We are told there have been dozens and dozens of arrests so far. Based on the buses we've seen leaving, it would be easy to assume that there have been over a hundred arrests so far but we don't have an exact number on that just yet.

Let's get to Miguel Marquez who's standing by just on the outskirts of the university and just so people know what they're looking at on the screen on the, well, okay, let's get to Miguel first and then we'll reset with those other pictures in a second. Miguel, what are you seeing?

MARQUEZ: Yeah, what you're looking at here is yet another person who's been arrested and brought out from the other gate, the gate that we were at earlier. We're on 114th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam. We're now closer to Amsterdam. We've seen lots of arrestees coming out of here.

There's now another arrestee going into a fourth bus right in front of us and it is not clear. I'm watching that gate down there. Police appear to have formed a cordon coming out of that gate and they're pulling people out of, that may be people coming out of the encampment.

It wasn't clear to us covering this earlier in the week how many people were in the encampment. They had lots of tents, but we think there were only maybe a couple dozen, few dozen people who were in the encampment.

So, far tonight, we've seen in the dozens arrested. I don't think we're at 100 yet, but you know, it's hard to tell. We've seen three or four buses leave here now. There have been some arrests on Amsterdam Avenue, as well, around the corner from where we are, but it seems right now that there are at least several dozen arrests here at Columbia University.

I will say two weeks ago when they made arrests, 108 arrests that then kicked off this backlash of encampments across the country, 70 of those 108 were not Columbia students. So, the university, NYPD, looking at that tonight as well.

The protesters do seem to have their own coordination. They had been protesting on Amsterdam Avenue for much of the day. They remained there all night, and it seems that some of those protesters that were outside may have been arrested, as well. But there was a large group of protesters who went to the main gate on Broadway, 116th and Broadway.

Police then shut down all of Broadway, both North and South, major thoroughfare. Those protesters went uptown, it seems to City College. And so, you had protesters sort of coordinating protests at different colleges all at the same time, John.

BERMAN: Yeah, and again, we're seeing pictures up at City College, too, about 20 blocks north of Columbia right now. Miguel, thank you. Stand by for a moment, if you will. Joey Jackson, our legal analyst is here. Joey, we talk about dozens and dozens of arrests. What happens to these people on the buses? What does it mean to be put under arrest for tonight and for the next several days?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, I think, John, the prosecutor here, Alvin Bragg, has a decision to make. And what that decision is, is what he's going to do. Is there going to be a distinction between students? And if so, do you criminalize this? Or do you offer them some resolution to the case which respects their right to protest, but again, you know, has some semblance of law that has to be mixed into it?

And do you distinguish the students from the non-students, right? How they got onto the campus? What specifically did they do? Were they peaceful? And so in essence, what will happen is that they will go to this arrest processing location. At some point, they'll be arraigned. What that means in English is they'll be brought before a judge.

They'll be formally charged with either disorderly conduct or criminal trespass or whatever the appropriate charges are, depending upon the specific conduct. At that time, they'll be released. There are bail reform laws in New York. There's nothing violent in nature. That is a blessing, right? We're seeing optics, not of any violence, not of any interactions of a negative variety, but of officers having taken control.

I'm sure John Miller can give us a course on how they sat him down and said, look, this is what we're going to do. This is how we're going to do it. The optics need to be what they have to be. And I think they did that very successfully. Thank goodness for that.

And so, John, what will happen is after their process and release, there'll be a date for them to return. In that interim period, prosecutors will make an assessment as to how to dispose of the case. Generally speaking, on a first arrest, you'll either get a disorderly conduct or something known as an ACD.

What does that mean? An adjournment and contemplation of dismissal. You stay out of trouble. You do everything right. Your case will be dismissed. It'll be sealed. You'll go on with your life. That's how generally it'll be done in the absence of any aggravating factors which demonstrate that the protesters at issue did something that was, you know, aggravating other than being in a building, occupying it, and really peacefully protesting in the way they think was appropriate.

BERMAN: And on the left-hand side of your screen is City College of New York, CCNY.


And before we had a shot of the arch there, and I'm told by people sitting with me here, that City University is actually often used as a facsimile for Columbia University in television shows and movies. So, if we get that picture of the building back up again, it may look familiar to you. It's actually about 20 blocks north of Columbia where a lot of these protesters have moved. So, that sound, those demonstrations you're seeing right now, not actually on the Columbia campus, which has more or less been cleared out by police over the last couple hours or so.

With us here also is Professor Alexis Hogue-Forger, a Brooklyn Law professor, but also someone who did a fellowship at Columbia for two years. And look, there are legal questions. Now, I mean, Columbia faced legal questions before inviting the police in again today. And now, with the invitation for the police to stay until May 17th, there are more questions about how they will treat the situation there.

ALEXIS HOAG-FORDJOUR, PROFESSOR: Exactly. And students have, all people have a right to peacefully protest, to speak freely about issues. And their rights do not, you know, go away once they approach this sort of college gates. And here we have quite literally the college gates. And there are sort of measures that a university can take, both private and public.

Student speech cannot sort of disrupt or impact the main thrust of a university, which is learning. And this is an interesting period right now in the academic calendar. Many classes have ended. We are sort of in this sort of dead space when students are reading, they're preparing for exams, they're turning in papers. My understanding is that many of the classes have moved online, virtually.

BERMAN: Hybrid classes for the last week or so.

HOAG-FORDJOUR: Yes, it's the last week or so. Some classes are not even meeting. Many classes -- many exams can be taken virtually, not on campus. We dealt with this in academic institutions during the height of the pandemic. And so, I think, you know, what's happening, we've sort of recognized it, that with police force being on campus until May 17th, Columbia really wants to have a graduation. They wanted to clear off that lawn. That beautiful green lawn is where commencement happens each year.

And so I feel, you know, for these students, they're engaged, they're young people, they know what's happening in this country and around the world. And the tools that they're using are their minds, their voices. Many are wearing keffiyehs, they've got signs, they're chanting.

And they really want to show that the students at Columbia and on college campuses across this country, that students are concerned for what's happening in Gaza. Students are concerned with what's happening to Palestinians. And my knowledge is that many students, I'm a professor at Brooklyn Law School.

I advise my students who are part of the National Lawyers Guild chapter, student chapter, students for justice in Palestine. They're all in conversation with each other and supporting each other for really a collective movement that we're seeing of young people.

BERMAN: You're looking again at live pictures just outside the campus of Columbia University. The police have moved in there. They've moved the cameras out. We don't have any picture from inside the campus anymore, outside Hamilton Hall.

Our Julia Vargas-Jones was outside Hamilton Hall all day reporting from the scene, providing really an exclusive look at what was going on. Julia, you've been moved off campus now, and we see you just outside where there have been, I think, some words, shall we say, between the demonstrators and police.

JULIA JONES, CNN REPORTER: Some protesters are getting a little bit -- so it's getting a little touchy outside. But still, very much of a halt situation otherwise. It doesn't look like a halt. It doesn't look like a halt. But my --

BERMAN: All right, we're having a hard time hearing Julia right now. Julia, hopefully, if you can hear me, if you can get your microphone fixed, but I do believe what you were saying is there have been some shouts from the protesters toward the police, though the police were there standing.

The police were standing there peacefully. The protesters, separate from them, also standing there on the right-hand side of your screen. We can see people, I believe, the police officers, I think, leaving Hamilton Hall, where they had gone in through the window, through that ramp. Actually, let's get to Miguel Marquez right now and tell us what you're seeing from where you are.

MARQUEZ: So, we are just watching these buses as well, but I've turned myself around to look down Amsterdam. There are reports that there is smoke coming off the top of Hamilton Hall. We know that protesters were up on the roof of Hamilton Hall.


I don't think -- Ken, can you shoot this? Can you see this smoke coming off of that? The smoke, can you see this? We're live, Ken. You think it's just exhaust? So, there are reports that there is smoke coming off of Hamilton Hall. Some police have gone down to look at it. I don't see a ton of smoke coming off here.

It may be just exhaust coming off of the hospital that's across the way from us, but there were protesters on the roof of Hamilton Hall earlier. Police said they used flash bang grenades, which could spark a fire if there is something combustible that they hit, but it's not really clear what's happening. It is a very clear, calm scene on this side on 114th. We haven't seen any more arrests for quite some time now.

There is one more bus that they have down there that they are slowly moving people into, but we haven't seen a ton. And it doesn't appear to me that that is -- if it is smoke, it's not very heavy smoke. It looks more like exhaust, but I don't see anything coming off of Hamilton Hall right now. Julia is down on Amsterdam, and maybe Siobhan, they might be able to see more down there. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. We'll check in with them in a bit, Miguel. Keep us posted as to what you see. I'm going to bring back in our Chief Law Enforcement Analyst, John Miller, who's here with us as well. And John, anything new you're hearing? Before, you had heard that law enforcement had moved through almost all of Hamilton Hall, and there really weren't that many people inside.

MILLER: That's right. So, you know, barricading the building, surrounding the building. There's two interesting possibilities here. One is that when it was clear the police were going to come and clear the building, the people inside might have gone outside.

As Joey Jackson will tell you, the charge, you know, for being inside in criminal trespass might come with a burglary charge or more. So, that might have been a tactical legal judgment on their point. But what we're watching here is that truck is the big bear that has the ramp that they can use to do an entry into a location from an upper floor as opposed to from the ground floor. And they are wrapping that up to get their ramp back down. That building is effectively cleared now.

What we looked at a minute ago was the emergency service units driving away. So, most of the tactical piece of taking that building back and clearing the inside appears to be complete just from what we're watching here. We've seen the buses, because they have pushed the crowd outside the gates and into pens, that the buses, police buses carrying the arrests have cleared the area and are on their way to MAPC or the Mass Arrest Processing Center down at headquarters.

In terms of the demonstrators, you're going to see two things. A number of them will go up likely to City College, about 20 blocks north at 140th Street and Broadway or Amsterdam rather. And you'll see others go down to the Arrest Processing Center where they do a different kind of demonstration called jail support where they protest outside.

BERMAN: All right, everyone stand by for a minute again. You're looking at live pictures on the right-hand side of your screen, Columbia University, where police have cleared out, we believe, almost all of Hamilton Hall and the left, City College, where there are still demonstrations. Our live coverage continues right after this.



BERMAN: All right, you are looking at live pictures. This is of City College in New York, which is about 20 blocks north of Columbia University. Of course, Columbia University, about an hour and 45 minutes ago, police moved in to remove the demonstrators who had taken over Hamilton Hall.

Many of the protesters moved north to City College is what you're looking at right now. And we did just see a brief skirmish melee between the police and some protesters. It did look like a few arrests were made, but it was quick.

And now, it appears that those clashes as they were are now over. We're going to keep our eye on that to see if the situation develops once again. In the meantime, I want to bring in Mahmoud Khalil. He is a second year graduate student who has been leading negotiations with the Columbia administration on behalf of the pro-Palestinian protesters. Mahmoud, thank you for being with us. I just want to know your reaction to what has happened tonight.

MAHMOUD KHALIL, LEAD COLUMBIA STUDENT NEGOTIATOR ON BEHALF OF PROTESTERS: Hi -- Hi, John. Today, is yet another disgraceful and shameful day for the Columbia administration. On this day, this is the 55-year anniversary of the 68 demonstrations and protests that happened actually at the same building that the university brought the NYPD to invade and to arrest these peaceful demonstrators.

And the university thinks that this would discourage students from calling for the end of the war in Gaza and the end of Columbia's investment in the companies that are investing in the genocide of the Palestinian people.


Since we started our negotiation last Friday, the university did not deal with this movement as an actual movement, an anti-war movement. Instead, they dealt with it as an internal student discipline matter. They've negotiated with us about bringing food and blankets to the encampment.

They refused to acknowledge that this is actually more than that. This is a nationwide movement. This is a movement that asked Columbia to divest its investments from the companies that are fueling the war in Gaza right now. So, what I'm feeling right now, I'm feeling disgraced by this institution.

BERMAN: Mahmoud, when Hamilton Hall was taken over, whether it was part of, as you say, a larger anti-war movement or an on-campus disciplinary matter, what was the expectation that Columbia would do once a building was seized and windows were broken and vandalized?

KHALIL: The Autonomous Group decided to take that building when they felt that the university is not answering their demands, the university is not dealing with them seriously, and the university is actually just alienating them. So, they had to do something, so the university can actually take their demands seriously.

These students have been demonstrating at Columbia since October. Every week they would demonstrate at campus. The university would answer only by more discipline and by suspension of these students.

So, when they -- last week, when they established a very peaceful encampment on the East Lawn, the university did not wait a minute to bring the NYPD, which, in fact, the president herself said that this --that the first call for NYPD was somewhat not a wise decision and aggravated the issue at Columbia.

Yet here we are again bringing more force, hoping that this movement wouldn't continue and would stop. And in fact, President Shafik of Columbia requested from the NYPD to stay on campus until May 17th after their graduation to make sure that no students are on campus to re-establish such encampments or to actually practice their first -- of protest.

BERMAN: I have to let you go, Mahmoud. Will the protests continue even with the police presence until May 17th?

KHALIL: I expect that. I'm not sure how the presence of the police would change this. The students will still have their rights to protest. And I'm very confident that students will continue this movement even after all this brutality against them.

BERMAN: All right, Mahmoud Khalil, thank you very much for being with us. Do appreciate your time. With us here, been watching this is, is Felipe Rodriguez, former NYPD police officer. We did see a little while ago, those arrests up at City College. Just tell me what you've been seeing in terms of how the police and law enforcement has been behaving on the ground.

RODRIGUEZ: You know what? They have to be commended. I saw a lot of restraint. We saw that team tactics was being done correctly. They were working together as a group. You know, we didn't see these wild swinging of batons like we've done in the past. You know, when the arrests had to be made, they worked together to take that person in with the minimum amount of force and to de-escalate by having a large presence of officers there at the scene.

BERMAN: What's it going to be like for those officers who've got to be up there till May 17th?

KHALIL: It's going to be difficult. It really is. It's going to wear them down. You know, but NYPD is one of the best police departments when it comes to dealing with, you know, large scale situations.

BERMAN: And Professor Alexis Forger, you know, again, who was at Columbia for a couple of years, what's going to be the reaction on campus to a law enforcement presence until May 17th? And we don't know what it will look like yet. Maybe we can talk about that in a second. But what do you think the response will be on campus?

HOAG-FORDJOUR: Yeah, I don't think it's going to be a comfortable place to be for students. I don't think it's going to be a comfortable place for families to come. It's not, you know, for graduation and celebration. The climate is going to be chilled. It's going to be a different place to be at. And really what Columbia has done in bringing in the NYPD is to overwhelm the student population with just the sheer presence and numbers of force.


Just being there is going to make a difference. I can imagine that students will still demonstrate in whatever way that they can. They feel very strongly about Columbia divesting from supporting what's going on in Gaza. And so, I don't imagine that that will end. It might look a little different, but I think we're still going to see students demonstrating.

BERMAN: Our Miguel Marquez, still standing by just outside Columbia University. Miguel, I understand you've got some new information.

MARQUEZ: Yeah, NYPD just briefed us a short time ago here on 114. They say it's done. There is -- Hamilton Hall has been cleared and is secured. The encampments that was out there for the last couple of weeks, that too has been cleared. The only thing out there right now are tents and their personal possessions. But everybody that didn't want to leave and didn't want to leave the campus was arrested. They also say there was no reports of anybody resisting arrest. There

were no reports of anyone being injured, as well. This is now -- so, we've come down to Amsterdam Avenue. You can see all the police officers who are protecting this so that the buses bringing out the last few people who were arrested can get out.

There are protesters behind us. They are also on the other side of Amsterdam Avenue. This is interesting, as well. So, this is John J. Hall just on the corner of 114 and Amsterdam. And you can see all the individuals hanging out their windows just watching what's going on out here.

Hamilton Hall is just up the street here, another block. And that is now secured. There were reports that there was smoke off the top of Hamilton Hall earlier. Police say that that's not true. There were people who claimed that they were using a tear gas. Police say that is not true. They did use flash bang grenades.

They said they went into Hamilton Hall, the doors were barricaded with tables, with chairs, with soda machines. They used the flash bangs to distract whoever was in there. And then they were able to open up those doors and get more officers in to clear out and check and then clear out the entire hall.

But at this point, when this started around 9 P.M., it's done. The police will stay. The Colombians asked them, as I heard you talking about, until May 17th. Commencement is on May 15th. So, they certainly want to have that presence.

What they don't want to have happen is what happened last time, that they clear the encampment, they clear the protesters, and then they re-establish themselves the next day or the following day. So, that's something that they are going to make sure doesn't happen. John.

BERMAN: Miguel Marquez just outside Columbia University where police say it's done. The campus has been cleared. Hamilton Hall has been cleared. The encampment has been cleared. No injuries, the police say. Much more ahead. Our special live coverage continues right after this.