Cooper Union Israel-Gaza War Protest Leads to Tense Scene at Library


The tensions inflamed by the Israel-Hamas war that have roiled university campuses in the United States spilled into the Cooper Union in New York on Wednesday, with pro-Palestinian protesters pounding on one side of locked library doors and Jewish students on the other.

The episode, captured in a six-second video snippet that was widely shared on social media, was among the latest examples of how sharply the Middle East conflict has divided student bodies at a number of top liberal arts colleges.

The Cooper Union, which is on the edge of Manhattan’s East Village neighborhood and which grants degrees in art, architecture and engineering, has fewer than 1,000 students.

In the video, a small group of students, several identifiable as Jews by their skullcaps, can be seen talking to one another inside the library while students outside bang on the doors and yell pro-Palestinian slogans.

According to accounts provided by the police, a Cooper Union spokeswoman and a student who was in the library at the time, the episode occurred after the protesters, who had gathered outside earlier, made their way inside the building.

The protesters went upstairs, and the Jewish students — who had been counter-protesting outside — went into the library on the lobby level, the student said. The student spoke on the condition of anonymity because of concerns about safety on campus.

With the Jewish students and others in the library, a Cooper Union staff member locked the doors after hearing the protesters coming down the stairs, the student said. After banging on the doors, the student said, the protesters began to bang on a large glass wall that looks into the library. After about a half-hour, the crowd headed back outside, the student said.

There was no indication that the protesters intended to harm the Jewish students or anyone else in the library, but the student who was there was nonetheless scared that the protesters might break down the doors.

In a statement, the Cooper Union spokeswoman, Kim Newman, said the library had been “closed” for about 20 minutes while the protesters “moved through our building.”

“Some students who were previously in the library remained there during this time,” Ms. Newman said, adding that all students, including the protesters, had dispersed by 5:30 p.m. Contrary to some reports, she said, the police had been present throughout the episode.

There were no arrests or summonses as a result of the episode, the police said.


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