Locks, Chains, Diversions: How Columbia Students Seized Hamilton Hall

The protesters occupying Hamilton Hall on the campus of Columbia University seemed ready to stay a while.

They had a microwave, an electric teakettle and sleeping bags, images distributed by the police show. On a blackboard in a classroom turned canteen, next to the words “Free Palestine” in bubble letters, they had written a chart for occupiers to list their dietary restrictions (two were vegan, one vegetarian).

In another classroom, they made a chart for security duties in two-hour shifts, and listed three Maoist revolutionary slogans as inspiration, according to the police videos.

“Political power comes from the barrel of a gun,” one of the slogans said.

For two weeks, Columbia’s campus had been the focal point of a growing crisis on college campuses around the country. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators set up tent encampments, held rallies and otherwise attempted to disrupt academic activities in an attempt to force universities to meet several demands.

But the takeover of Hamilton Hall was a new turning point. The university decided to call in the police to clear the building — drawing both harsh criticism and praise, and raising new questions about who, exactly, was behind the growing unrest.

The people who took over the building were an offshoot of a larger group of demonstrators who had been camping out on campus in an unauthorized pro-Palestinian protest. On Tuesday night, more than 100 of them — people inside the hall along with others outside on campus and those beyond Columbia’s gates — were arrested.

In the days since, Mayor Eric Adams, police officials and university administrators have

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