The New York Police Department is investigating reports that Columbia University students were attacked with chemical spray last week during a pro-Palestinian protest.
Eight students were hospitalized and dozens more sought medical attention after the Friday attack on the Ivy League campus, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, two student groups based at the university, said in a joint statement.
The chemical caused some students to experience nausea and burning eyes, the groups said.
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The NYPD said a 24-year-old woman told authorities that she was informed by others that an unknown substance was sprayed into the air during the demonstration.
“The victim smelled an unknown odor and began to feel nauseated and experienced a burning sensation in her eyes,” a police email said.
No arrests have been made.
On Monday, Columbia’s interim provost, Dennis Mitchell, wrote in a campus email that the alleged, “perpetrators identified to the University were immediately banned from campus.”
Mitchell didn’t identify the suspects. He said students who attended the demonstration reported being sprayed with a foul-smelling substance that required them to seek medical treatment.”
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“The New York City Police Department is taking the lead role in investigating what appear to have been serious crimes, possibly hate crimes,” he wrote. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms any threats or acts of violence directed toward anyone in our community.”
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is demanding the NYPD investigate the attack as a possible hate crime.
“The alleged use of a chemical agent on the grounds of a college campus in NYC is beyond heinous,” CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said in a statement. “It is an escalation of violence launched against peaceful protesters by individuals who seek to inflict harm and undermine the principles of peaceful dialogue and dissent upheld in any democratic society.”
Some students said the chemical used in the attack was “skunk,” which is used by the Israeli military against protesters in the Palestinian territories, CAIR said.
Columbia and other Ivy League institutions have been at the center of pro-Palestinian protests since Israel was attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7. Many of the schools have come under heavy criticism for protests against Israel and issues surrounding free speech on college campuses.
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In their statement, the SJP and JVP called on the university to investigate alleged attacks on Muslim and Arab students.
“The double-standard is clear,” the joint statement said. “Who will protect students who are advocating for safety and freedom for Palestinians?”