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Law Enforcement Investigating Alleged Chemical Attack On Pro-Palestinian Protest At Columbia University

The New York Police Department and officials with Columbia University are investigating reports that those at a pro-Palestinian demonstration were sprayed with a chemical substance in what the university’s interim provost, Dennis A. Mitchell, said Monday could be “serious crimes, possibly hate crimes.” He added that the school had banned “the alleged perpetrators,” whom he did not identify, from campus as the investigation continues. The stench hit the Columbia University student during the Friday rally, the Washington Post reports. About 300 people had gathered on the steps of the Low Library, protesting Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza. “I could hear protesters asking each other if they could smell it, too,” said Soph Askanase, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and Columbia University Apartheid Divest. “I really thought it was leaked sewage or something dead near us.” Hours later, the scent had not lifted — and some of the protesters had begun to suffer nausea, burning eyes and stomach pain. Several were hospitalized, according to organizers.

No arrests had been made as of Tuesday, New York Police Department Detective Annette Shelton said. The incident comes as tensions remain high over the Israeli bombardment of Gaza that the enclave’s Health Ministry says has killed more than 25,000, launched after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that Israel estimates killed about 1,200. Since the first days of the war, American college campuses have been inflamed by tensions over the situation in the Middle East. Protests have been held in support of both Israel and Palestinians, and donors and politicians have paid close attention to the stances taken by university officials.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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