DA Bragg's office drops charges against most anti-Israel student protesters who illegally occupied Columbia University building

By 
 June 25, 2024

In late April, police disrupted the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian student-protester-led occupation of Columbia University's Hamilton Hall, an escalation of the weeks-long illegal campus encampment, and arrested at least 46 protesters on a variety of criminal charges.

Last week, however, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office dropped all charges against nearly three-quarters of those protesters, ostensibly because of a lack of evidence to convict them in court, The New York Times reported.

The decision was met with fury from both sides, as pro-Palestinian protesters demanded that Bragg drop charges against all of Hamilton Hall occupiers while pro-Israel Jewish students were incensed that any of the criminal charges had been dropped at all.

Prosecutors cite lack of evidence as reason for dropped charges

The Times reported that prosecutors revealed during a Thursday court hearing that all charges had been dropped against 31 of the 46 pro-Palestinian student protesters who'd illegally occupied Columbia University's Hamilton Hall and were arrested when police raided the building on April 30.

A spokesman for DA Bragg's office, Doug Cohen, explained that the charges had been dropped because it would have been "extremely difficult" for prosecutors to win convictions for anything other than the minor misdemeanor of trespassing.

That is because there was little video evidence directly linking the protesters to the alleged crimes and property destruction that occurred, given that most of the protesters had worn masks and covered up surveillance cameras in the barricaded building. For the same stated reasons, prosecutors also dropped charges against nine of the 22 student protestors arrested on the same night for a similarly illegal occupation of a building on the nearby City College campus.

Of those from both campuses who continue to face criminal prosecution, some are charged with felony assault while others are charged with weapons possession, among other things.

Pro-Palestinian protesters flood court to pressure Bragg to drop all charges

The Times' article sought to downplay the dropping of charges against the anti-Israel student protesters as no big deal by comparing it to other major instances with a similar lack of prosecution for most arrestees, including 2011's Occupy Wall Street protests and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and quoted a few Democratic officials who approved of the district attorney's decision.

The outlet also noted that dozens of pro-Palestinian student protesters showed up at the courthouse and demanded that all remaining charges be dropped against all who had been arrested, and reported that some of those who still face charges claimed they'd rejected deals offered by prosecutors to drop the charges if they agreed to stay out of trouble and not be rearrested within the next six months.

As it turns out, The Washington Free Beacon reported that pro-Palestinian faculty and student activists, many disguising their identity with masks and Palestinian keffiyehs, coordinated the courthouse protest as an effort to pressure DA Bragg into dropping criminal charges against all 46 of the Hamilton Hall occupiers.

One of those protesters, who identified himself as "Mickey Mouse," praised the arrested occupiers who "resist the pigs, the police in the U.S.," and said of that anti-Israel occupation and the courthouse protest, "This is standing with Palestinian resistance." They further claimed, "This is an interlinking of our struggles -- struggles against carceral violence, against colonialism, against racism, against genocide," and added that the protesters "refuse to condemn the Palestinian resistance" -- which is led by the violently antisemitic Hamas terror organization.

Pro-Israel Jewish activists call out Bragg for lack of accountability

The New York Post reported that dozens of pro-Israel Jewish student activists from Columbia University also showed up as counterprotesters at the courthouse and expressed their outrage at DA Bragg's decision to drop criminal charges against 31 of the 46 individuals arrested for the anti-Israel occupation of Hamilton Hall.

One called Bragg's move "a betrayal of the safety and trust of all New Yorkers like myself" while another said the DA was "paving the way for lawlessness everywhere" and still another, a Jewish faculty member at the university, said Bragg was "either a coward or an antisemite" for refusing to prosecute the anti-Israel occupiers.

An unnamed spokesperson for Bragg's office told the Post, "We bring charges based on the facts, evidence, and what is provable in a court of law, and the Office continues to prosecute an array of cases stemming from campus protests," and added, "As we said in court, the defendants whose cases were dismissed had no criminal history and there was extremely limited video evidence, which made it challenging to determine the specific actions of each individual."

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