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Jewish Cooper Union Students Sheltered In The Library During A “Free Palestine” Protest

The atmosphere on college campuses in the U.S. has been tense since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, a Palestinian militant group. Israel responded to the attack by declaring war on Gaza on Oct. 8. Reactions from both sides of the conflict have been strong, especially on American college campuses. Some students and faculty members in the U.S. have shared their support for Israel, while others have protested against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. One college that saw a rise in intense demonstrations was The Cooper Union in New York City, where a group of Jewish students had to seek shelter in a library during a protest.

On Oct. 7, Hamas fired rockets toward southern and central Israel and began taking hostages across the border into Gaza. Israel responded by launching retaliatory air strikes and implementing a complete siege of Gaza. The death toll in Gaza is estimated by some reports to be over 7,000 due to the air strikes, and Israel has also reported that Hamas killed more than 1,400 people in their attack.

The horrors unfolding in the Middle East are having a prominent impact on people all over the world, and hate crimes against both Jewish and Muslim groups are on the rise. The FBI has reported an uptick in threats against Jewish and Muslim communities since the Israel-Gaza war began. FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that the war could inspire violent acts in the U.S. as well.

College campuses have already seen targeted acts against these communities. On Oct. 25, a group of Jewish students at Cooper Union in New York had to take shelter in a library as a group of demonstrators loudly chanted “Free Palestine” outside. 


Jewish students at Cooper Union are in the library as protestors pound on the door. Listen with sound on.

♬ original sound – Yashar Ali

The “Free Palestine Movement” is a group that aims to defend and advocate for the human rights of all Palestinians. There has been conflict between Israel and Palestine for decades, and “Free Palestine” has been a phrase used by people around the world who do not want Palestine to be under Israel’s control. It is not known if the group outside Cooper Union was officially associated with the FPM.

The students at Cooper Union told CBS that school staff had to lock them inside the library for their own safety during this demonstration. Security then escorted the students out of the library. While there were no injuries or property damages, students reported to CBS that some participants in the demonstration were acting aggressive toward the Jewish students. 

The protestors released a statement to CBS News that read, “We, students of Cooper Union, planned a peaceful protest to demand our institution’s acknowledgment of the Israeli apartheid.” About the specific incident at the library, they added, “When we reached the library, we were told that it was closed so we continued chanting outside the glass window of the library. Many different students of all backgrounds were in the library at the time. We would like to make it clear that our protest was not targeting any individual students or faculty, but the institution itself. We would like to reiterate that we DO NOT under any circumstance condone antisemitism and many members of the protest were Jewish.”

Cooper Union told CBS that NYPD staff was on site the day after the incident took place. Her Campus reached out to Cooper Union for comment, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Cooper Union is not the only school where demonstrations are taking place. Walkouts and demonstrations have been happening at college campuses across the country, some in support of the Israeli government and others in protest of the treatment of Palestinians. As the conflict in Israel and Gaza continues, many are hoping for a ceasefire that will prevent further destruction and loss of life from occurring.

Jordyn Stapleton has been a National Lifestyle Writer for Her Campus since February 2023. She covers a variety of topics in her articles, but is most passionate about writing about mental health and social justice issues. Jordyn graduated from CU Boulder in December 2022 with Bachelor’s degrees in music and psychology with a minor in gender studies and a certificate in public health. Jordyn was involved in Her Campus during college, serving as an Editorial Assistant and later Editor-in-Chief for the CU Boulder chapter. She has also worked as a freelance stringer for the Associated Press. Jordyn is currently taking a gap year and working at a local business in Boulder, with hopes of attending graduate school in fall 2024. Jordyn enjoys reading, bullet journalling, and listening to (preferably Taylor Swift) music in her free time. If she isn’t brainstorming her next article, you can usually find her exploring coffee shops or hiking trails around Boulder with her friends.