Updated on May 8

(NEW YORK)— On April 30, Columbia University requested assistance from the New York Police Department to clear an encampment of pro-Palestine protesters and to remove protesters who had occupied Columbia’s Hamilton Hall. The university further requested police presence on campus through May 17, which marks the end of planned commencement activities.

Columbia has faced continued pressure from elected officials to crack down on pro-Palestinian protest on campus.

In response, PEN America released the following statement:

“PEN America is deeply disturbed by recent events at Columbia University, where a building takeover by students was followed by an excessive show of force by the NYPD, only deepening tensions and distrust on campus. Further, the request by President Minouche Shafik for the NYPD to remain on campus until May 17 is alarming. If any police presence beyond Columbia University public safety staff is needed to maintain safety it should be as minimal as possible and must not impinge on the free expression rights of those on campus. An increased and extended NYPD presence has the potential to cast a chilling effect on protected political expression by students and faculty.

We are further disturbed by reports that press access to campus was limited during the arrests at Hamilton Hall and by allegations that student reporters were threatened with arrest. An unfettered press, as well as protection from violence and intimidation, are necessary prerequisites for a robust culture of free expression, protest, and dissent, and press access is especially vital where events are unfolding rapidly, to shine a light on the facts. After a traumatic 24 hours for the entire campus community, what Columbia’s leadership does next matters.”


Since this statement was published it was confirmed that police accidentally fired shots during their presence in Hamilton Hall . This demonstrates the risk of using police force in response to protests and potential for such force to further chill free expression.”

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About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], (201) 247-5057