AOC criticizes ‘horrific’ decision to deploy police at Columbia University protests

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) criticized Columbia University for sending in New York City police to manage pro-Palestinian protesters.

It was a rare defense from a member of Congress of the protesters, who have seen strong bipartisan condemnation in recent days. The New York Democrat denounced the university for sending in the police against the protesters, taking specific issue with the deployment of the New York Police Department’s Strategic Response Group.

Police in Riot gear stand guard as demonstrators chant slogans outside the Columbia University campus, Thursday, April 18, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

“Not only did Columbia make the horrific decision to mobilize NYPD on their own students, but the units called in have some of the most violent reputations on the force,” she said in a post on X. “NYPD had promised the city they wouldn’t deploy SRG to protests. So why are these counterterror units here?”

The Washington Examiner reached out to the NYPD for comment.

The NYPD’s SRG is a counterterrorism unit formed in 2015. It has come under harsh criticism from progressive activists over its use in breaking up protests.

“While it was founded in 2015 as a counter-terrorism unit, from its inception, the SRG’s mission conflated protest and terrorism,” the American Civil Liberties Union’s New York branch wrote in a 2022 report. “Within its first year, the SRG doubled in size, and its budget increased from $13 to $90 million. Seven years later, the SRG functions almost entirely as a violent protest-policing unit. With more funding, more equipment, and almost no transparency about the unit’s cost or function, the SRG has become one of the most dangerous and unaccountable arms of the NYPD.”

Protests have gripped many universities across the United States, with the most notable being at Columbia. The demonstrations are based on anger toward Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and the United States and/or their respective universities’ support of it.

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Columbia announced on Tuesday that due to the demonstrations, most classes would move to become hybrid for the rest of the semester.

“Safety is our highest priority as we strive to support our students’ learning and all the required academic operations. It’s vital that teaching and learning continue during this time,” the announcement read.

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