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The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Columbia University Students Reportedly Attacked by Chemical Spray During Protests

Protesters at Columbia University were sprayed with hazardous chemicals during a pro-Palestinian “divestment now” rally on Friday, Jan. 19, leading eight students to seek medical attention.

According to Columbia’s Students for Justice in Palestine, two individuals began spraying “Skunk” spray, an Israeli crowd-control spray described as smelling like “dead animals and human excrement,” on protesters.

Following the attack, Columbia Interim Provost Dennis Mitchell announced in an email Monday, Jan. 22, that the university identified and immediately banned the individuals who allegedly released the spray. 

Mitchell went on to describe the incident as “serious crimes, possibly hate crimes.”

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Meanwhile, the New York Police Department is currently investigating the matter after receiving a report; however, no information has been released regarding suspects and no arrests have been made. 

Columbia’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which was suspended by the university last November after conducting an unsanctioned ceasefire protest, claims to have identified the two current students responsible as former Israeli Defense Forces officers who attended the event wearing keffiyehs, a traditional scarf representing Palestinian struggle, under false pretenses.  

According to the Columbia Spectator, 10 students reported symptoms such as burning eyes, headaches and nausea, while 18 described putrid smells following the attack.

“Columbia is committed to defending the right of all of our members to safely express their right to expression and to invite, listen to and challenge views, including those that may be offensive or harmful to many of us,” Mitchell wrote in the email. “We condemn in the largest possible terms any threat or acts of violence directed toward anyone in our community.”

Mitchell went on to condemn the attacks as well as the unsanctioned protests, citing several rules in the Rules of University Conduct, including those that prohibit community members from conducting acts that “places another in bodily harm or uses words that threaten bodily harm,” as well as several rules regarding conduct at campus protests.

Columbia’s Department of Public Safety also released a statement on Sunday saying it “has been actively working with local and federal authorities in this investigation, with NYPD taking a lead role.”

In the wake of the protests, Columbia’s chapter of Students Supporting Israel released a statement condemning “any actions of any individual who may engage in behaviors with the intent to cause physical or psychological harm to other Columbia students.”

The protests, which initially took place from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, drew both pro-Palestine protests as well as several pro-Israel counter-protesters, with the two groups chanting at one another in the freezing temperatures. 

The attack comes after student protests and tensions have continued to escalate on university and college campuses nationwide since the Israel-Hamas War broke out.

Since the declaration of the war following an attack on Israeli soil by Hamas, over 25,000 Palestinians—including over 10,000 children—and 1,200 Israelis have died.

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About the Contributor
Matthew Schaffer, Managing Editor
Matthew Schaffer is a senior at Marshall University pursuing a B.A. in multimedia journalism with a minor in political science. He follows national politics and foreign affairs. He has previously worked as a reporter for both The Parthenon and WMUL. After graduating, he plans to pursue a political and investigative journalism career. In the meantime, he is the self-proclaimed "Hoops Fever Champion" and is, in fact, accepting challengers.
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