Manhattan DA Drops Charges For More Than Half Of Columbia University Protesters

The Manhattan district attorney dropped the charges for more than half of the Columbia University protesters who were arrested in April during a pro-Palestinian demonstration on campus.

Hundreds of students seized Hamilton Hall, a building on Columbia’s campus in Manhattan, on April 30 amid a nationwide mobilization of protests on college campuses to protest Israel’s attacks on Palestinians and called on their college institutions to divest from Israel.

The protests revolve around Israel’s ongoing offensive against the militant group Hamas in Gaza, after it had launched a deadly surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7. Since then, Israel’s ongoing strikes have killed over 30,000 people in Gaza and displaced most of the population.

On Thursday, Manhattan district attorney’s office, dismissed the charges against 31 out of 46 protesters who were arrested on April 30 at the college’s pro-Palestine demonstrations due to lack of evidence, among other reasons. Those who were students or employed at Columbia are facing ongoing disciplinary hearings.

All the individuals whose cases were dismissed were students or staff at Columbia, Barnard or Union Theological Seminary, the DA office told HuffPost.

James Carlson, another defendant who is unaffiliated with Columbia University, faces charges for trespassing and burning an Israeli flag. According to NBC News, he has two open cases against him involving separate charges.

Some individuals — two students and 12 individuals who were not staff or students at Columbia — were offered a proposal to have their charges dropped as long as they aren’t arrested within the next six months, NBC News reported. Prosecutors said that the individuals’ nonexistent criminal history and the limited video or surveillance footage of what happened inside Hamilton Hall were factors in the dismissal of their charges.

“The available evidence fails to establish or prove that they personally participated in damaging any Columbia University property or causing harm to anyone. Additionally, no police officers were injured,” the DA office wrote regarding the 12 individuals, adding that it would be “extremely difficult” to prove any charges other than trespassing at a trial.

Some of the protesters said at a news conference after their hearing that they would reject the proposed dismissal of their charges as a means of showing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. Reuters also reported that the individuals said they would reject the proposal, and are expected back in court on July 25.

HuffPost reached out to a spokesperson for Columbia who declined to comment.