Jewish Students Locked Inside Library as Anti-Israel Protesters Banged on Doors

Banging can clearly be heard in the videos as well as chants of “Free Palestine” and anti-Israel signs being held up in front of the glass windows.
October 26, 2023

Videos have been circulating on social media showing Jewish students at The Cooper Union in New York City on Wednesday locked inside the school’s library while anti-Israel protesters were banging on the building’s doors, though the school claims that the library was simply “closed” for 20 minutes.

Banging can clearly be heard in the videos as well as chants of “Free Palestine” and anti-Israel signs being held up in front of the glass windows. Media reports state there were 11 Jewish students in total in the library and the protesters were also chanting, “Globalize the intifada!”

A student who spoke to The New York Post anonymously said: “When they started banging on the door, my heart started pounding. I was crying. I think if the doors weren’t locked — I don’t know what would have happened. I don’t want to speculate what would’ve happened. It just makes me too nervous. I was absolutely terrified in that moment.”

CBS News New York spoke to another anonymous student who described the incident as “tense.” “People were nervous,” the student said. “They were specifically acting very aggressive in those spaces where outwardly Jewish students were sitting.”

The New York Times also spoke to an anonymous student who said that a college staffer locked the library doors when they heard the protesters coming and that it took a half hour for the protesters go back outside.

Jeffrey Lax, a professor at the City University of New York, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that his nephew was one of the students who was “barricaded in its library as pro-Hamas animals banged on and tried to get into the library —  to do what with them? … They then went to a see through glass area, continued to taunt the Jewish students, banging on the glass and chanting things like ‘Globalize the Intifada,’” Lax wrote. “Heroically, though I will not share his name right now, my nephew refused to escape through tunnels when security came to free them. He insisted on marching right out front so he would be seen. All of the harassed Jewish students appear to be safe. WE MUST NOT STAND FOR THIS!”

Anti-Defamation League New York / New Jersey Director Scott Richman posted on X, “I sat with these @cooperunion students tonight & was shocked by the details. Anti-Israel protesters went past security in search of the president, & then harassed these students by pounding on the glass windows & door while chanting anti-Israel slogans.” Richman added in a subsequent that he will discussing with the school’s president, Laura Sparks, “to understand how she will deal with this serious and egregious act of antisemitic intimidation, how she will respond to the apparent security lapse that led to this and how she will protect her Jewish students going forward.”

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt posted on X, “This intimidation of students is appalling — what is @cooperunion doing to keep its Jewish students safe as they let anti-Zionist attitudes clearly permeate their campus? Administrators must speak out against this — enough is enough.”

Kim Newman, the college’s media relations manager, said in a statement to the Journal on Wednesday regarding the incident: “The Library was closed for approximately 20 minutes while student protestors moved through our building. Some students who were previously in the Library remained during this time. All students have now dispersed.”

A spokesperson for the New York Police Department told the Journal that there was a protest of around 90 students that day and “some students went into the school and remained inside for approximately 25 minutes. Community Affairs Officers were present while the demonstration took place inside. The school staff allowed the demonstration to take place. The students dispersed after the incident. No property damage was reported, no criminal reports were filed and no threats of physical violence were made. Additionally there were no injuries reported.”

NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said in a Thursday press conference that there were “no direct threats” to the Jewish students inside the library. “The students were not barricaded. The doors were open but closed,” he said. “A school administrator thought it was prudent to close the doors and place private security as the protesters were coming down the stairs.”

Chell explained that in front of Cooper Union, there were 70 pro-Palestinian protesters and 20 pro-Israel counter-protesters. Twenty of the pro-Palestinian protesters went inside the school to protest the president’s office; as they were coming back down the stairs, a school official decided to “close the library doors, we’ll put one of our private security and let the protesters pass. For about roughly 10 minutes, approximately 10 minutes, they were banging on the doors of the library and banging on some transparent windows that you see into the library.”

After the protesters left, the Jewish students inside were asked if they wanted an Uber ride and the students replied, “no, we feel safe, we’re good, and they all left,” Chell said.

Pro-Palestinian students denied targeting Jewish students, telling CBS New York that they were protesting “the school’s one-sided stance and participation in the occupation of Palestine. We planned to peacefully protest outside the building before walking in and continuing our protest outside the president’s office. We concluded our protest by calling out our demands through the hallways of the entire foundation building.”

The pro-Palestinian students continued: “When we reached the library, we were told that it was closed so we continued chanting outside the glass window of the library. Many different students of all backgrounds were in the library at the time. We would like to make it clear that our protest was not targeting any individual students or faculty, but the institution itself. We would like to reiterate that we DO NOT under any circumstance condone antisemitism and many members of the protest were Jewish.”

New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) posted on X on Wednesday evening, “State officials are in close communication with local law enforcement regarding protests on the Cooper Union campus tonight. Antisemitism and all forms of hate and intimidation are unacceptable and have no place in New York State.”

UPDATE: Cooper Union said in a statement on October 26, “ The devastation and loss of life in Israel and Gaza are a cause of deep pain and anger for people around the world and in our own community. While we support our students’ right to peacefully protest and express themselves, a walkout on Wednesday reached an unacceptable level when protesting students entered a campus building and disrupted the learning environment. Cooper is a place of shared learning, and we must uphold our commitment to ensure that all students, faculty, and staff feel safe on our campus. While there is room for productive debate and dissent here, there is no place for any discriminatory, hateful, or threatening acts of any kind.”

They added: “We are reaching out to all of our affected communities to listen to and address their concerns. We are reviewing reports and footage from yesterday’s events and will initiate any necessary actions consistent with our policies. We have increased our security and are working with NYPD and our external security partner to make sure our students, faculty, and staff feel safe and protected.”

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