New York City Council Member Observes ‘Peaceful’ Gaza Protests at Columbia, Despite Conflicting News Coverage

PC: Columbia University

By Roxy Benson

NEW YORK, NY –  Yousef Salaam, a New York City Council Member of the 9th district in Manhattan, and long-time Harlem resident, expressed his concerns this week over the nature of protests students and faculty have participated in, stressing those involved have remained peaceful despite conflicting media coverage.

Salaam, who serves as Chair of the Committee of Public Safety, said in a statement he visited the neighborhood where Columbia University resides, and spoke to students and faculty members who have been protesting the matter regarding Columbia University’s investments in Israel surrounding the conflict in Gaza.

“I had the privilege of conversing with students from diverse ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds. They are not only exercising their right to peaceful protest but are doing what they can to ensure the well-being of all, providing essentials like food, water, and clothing, and accommodating religious needs such as prayer spaces for Muslim, Jewish, and Christian students,” Salaam wrote.

Salaam described differing experiences he had during his visit to the encampment protests, noting that he saw vastly different behavior from protesters than what media coverage has been portraying, specifically on Columbia’s campus.

Various media outlets have made it seem like the protests occurring on campus are not peaceful, despite what is being reported, said Salaam, adding, “In truth, the encampment demonstration is not only peaceful but also profoundly impactful, showcasing how the diversity of ideas among our youth can foster global peace if embraced wholeheartedly; no stamp out with force or rhetoric.”

Council member Salaam said, “It’s essential to recognize that movements often originate in an educational setting, where students must feel empowered to voice their opinions without fear of repercussion and suspension, as the greatness of an educational institution lies in its students”.

Salaam explained organizers of the encampment are working towards creating a vetting process to make sure those who are involved aren’t engaging in dangerous or violent behavior, as well as including guidelines for peaceful demonstrations.

Salaam and his office highlight the importance of promoting reason and de-escalation, noting, “while we commend those who protect the rights and dignity of others, we must also hold accountable those who compromise public safety.”

Salaam adds, “In New York City, hate of all forms has no place, and we must all exercise compassion and understanding to combat hatred and intolerance. To those living in fear and have suffered bigotry, antisemitism, or violence, please contact my office. We want to hear from you.”

About The Author

Roxy Benson is a third year student at the University of Vermont studying political science, with a minor in Gender Women and Sexuality Studies. While currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Political Science, Roxy hopes to apply to law school in the future to further learn more about the American justice system, as well as aiding the system with the goal of eliminating instances of everyday injustices. She has had a continued passion form criminal justice reform, and finds her passions aligning with advocating for different social justice issues that face the system as a whole through her writing, as well as immersing herself in her studies.

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