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Pro-Palestinian students ‘occupy’ CUNY Graduate Center for a few hours before calling it quits

Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate outside the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Ave. near E. 34th St. in Manhattan on Tuesday. (Gardiner Anderson for ϲʿֱ)
Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate outside the CUNY Graduate Center on Fifth Ave. near E. 34th St. in Manhattan on Tuesday. (Gardiner Anderson for ϲʿֱ)
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That was quick.

Pro-Palestinian protesters briefly occupied the lobby of the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown Manhattan on Tuesday night, about two weeks after big NYPD crackdowns at City College of New York and other campuses.

Roughly two dozen students demonstrated for several hours inside the lobby on Fifth Ave. near E. 34th St., hanging banners and dubbing the Center’s library “The Al Aqsa University Library.”

Al Aqsa University, the oldest public university in Gaza, during Israel’s war on Hamas.

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over the lobby of the CUNY Graduate Center Library on 5th Avenue and 34th Street in Manhattan, New York City on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Gardiner Anderson for ϲʿֱ)
Pro-Palestinian protesters take over the lobby of the CUNY Graduate Center Library on Fifth Ave. near 34th St. in Manhattan on Tuesday. (Gardiner Anderson for ϲʿֱ)

About 75 protesters stood in the rain outside the Graduate Center waving Palestinian flags. Dozens of NYPD cops lined the street outside the building but did not breach the building. Meanwhile, students were seen diligently studying inside the library as the spring semester wound down.

Students involved in the demo called on administrators to negotiate a divestment from “Israeli weapons, tech and surveillance companies.”

Around 10:30 p.m., students emerged from the Graduate Center and declared victory, telling protesters on the street that after negotiations, CUNY administrators agreed to forward their demands to the entire student body.

The protesters lit a traffic flare and evacuated the library, which custodians immediately began cleaning up.

Police respond after pro-Palestinian protesters take over the lobby of the CUNY Graduate Center Library on 5th Avenue and 34th Street in Manhattan, New York City on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Gardiner Anderson for ϲʿֱ)
Police respond after pro-Palestinian protesters take over the lobby of the CUNY Graduate Center Library on Tuesday. (Gardiner Anderson for ϲʿֱ)

Organizers indicated they’d been motivated by campus crackdowns that made national headlines earlier this month.

“On April 30, the City College administration called the New York Police Department to dismantle the CUNY Gaza Solidarity Encampment, resulting in brutalization of protestors and almost 200 arrests,” the students said in a statement before leaving the building. “On May 13, CCNY threatened pro-Palestine students with suspension for protesting on their own campus.”

On May 1, police made 173 arrests after pro-Palestinian protesters occupied a City College administration building, vandalizing offices and shattering glass doors, before CUNY called in the NYPD to clear the encampment, officials previously said.

A CUNY Graduate Center spokeswoman did not immediately requests for comment Tuesday night.

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