NYC Mayor Eric Adams defends police response to campus protests

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended the actions taken by the NYPD in response to campus protests, in an interview Sunday.

“We want to ensure we protect democracy and the right to protest,” Adams said in an interview on ABC News’s “This Week.”

“But we have an obligation that, when those protests reach the point of violence, as the president stated,” Adams continued, “we have to ensure that we use a minimum amount of force to terminate what is perceived to be a threat – not only by our intelligence, but also the school and college officials.”

Police officers, dressed in riot gear, moved onto Columbia University’s campus last Tuesday, in response to protesters’ occupation of a campus building, escalating tensions following more than a week of protests as the encampment continued to grow seemingly each day.

University officials had warned repeatedly the protesters were violating university policies and attempted to negotiate with them, but they refused to pack up their encampment.

Adams defended the timing of the NYPD response, saying that they responded to a request from university officials, and even if they had previously harbored concerns about the protests, they did not want to overstep their authority.

“We communicated with the college officials for several days leading up to the New York City Police Department action,” Adams said, when asked whether the NYPD should have responded earlier. “And we knew we had to get permission unless there’s imminent threat to life or severe threat to property. And once the school’s made the determination, we shared the information that we had.”

“Our intelligence division looked at it, and it was concerning to me,” Adams continued. “But we were not going to overstep our legal authority and right to do so.”

Adams shrugged off criticism from progressives, including Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), who characterized the NYPD response as a “militarization of college campus,” which he said stands “in direct opposition to the role of education as a cornerstone of our democracy.”

“That’s the beauty of America. One has the right to have his or her opinion, and I respect that. I protested as a young man for apartheid and other issues to dismantle apartheid. And so, I respect that,” Adams said in response to Bowman’s statement.

“He has his position. And I have an obligation and responsibility to ensure the city is safe,” Adams continued.

New York officials said at least 100 people arrested at protests at Columbia University and City College of New York (CCNY) were not affiliated with the respective schools.

Adams has raised concerns about “outside agitators” and the influence they have over students, saying in the interview that “there’s a real attempt to radicalize our young people, and when you look at some of the information and some of the people who were there, we need to be clear that we cannot take this lightly.”

He clarified his use of the term “outside agitators” in this context.

“And when I use the term of ‘outside agitators,’ anyone can protest in the city, but when you are on college grounds and you do not attend that college, you are an outsider. And then when you train people to do disruptive things, you are an agitator,” Adams said. “So I’m not trying to be politically correct. I’m trying to be correct for the city of New York as we make sure this continues to be safe.”

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