Union Leader Plans To Sue Columbia After Workers Held ‘Hostage’ By Anti-Israel Protesters

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Kate Anderson Contributor
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The president of an international transit union intends to sue Columbia University after it allegedly failed to protect workers held “hostage” by Palestinian protesters who overtook one of the school’s buildings this month, according to Politico.

John Samuelsen of the Transport Workers Union, which oversees over 150,000 workers in a multitude of businesses, including the airline, transit, railroad and education fields, said that Columbia’s President Minouche Shafik waited too long to bring in police on April 30 after pro-Palestinian overtook Hamilton Hall, according to Politico. One worker had reportedly claimed to have been prevented from leaving the building by the protesters and Samuelsen said the union was looking into “legal action” to protect workers. (RELATED: Columbia Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony Amid Anti-Israel Protests)

We’re exploiting every legal means at our disposal against Columbia, against the individual occupiers of the building … [who] thought that they could hold our custodians hostage to their ideology,” Samuelsen told Politico.

Protestors gather at the gates of Columbia University, in support of student protesters who barricaded themselves in Hamilton Hall, despite orders from university officials to disband or face suspension, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City, U.S., April 30, 2024. (REUTERS/David Dee Delgado)

Protesters occupied the building after the university had implemented a mandatory suspension of anyone who had not cleared the encampment by 2 p.m. One maintenance worker claimed that they had been held “hostage” for a brief period as protesters shouted, “We will honor all the martyrs, all the parents, mothers, fathers.”

Mario Torres, one of the maintenance workers in the building at the time, said that he was swarmed by protesters who came in with zip ties, duct tape and masks, according to the Free Press. Torres fought with one of the protesters in an attempt to “protect the building” but worried about his family and how he was going to make it out.

“I was freaking out. At that point, I’m thinking about my family. How was I gonna get out? Through the window,” Torres told the Free Press.

The university eventually called in the New York Police Department the following evening, who showed up in riot gear and arrested dozens of protesters. Samuelsen, however, argued that was not enough and demanded in a letter sent to the university Monday it release the names of the protesters who occupied the building and footage of the incident, according to Politico.

Columbia announced Monday that it would no longer hold its main graduation ceremony due to the ongoing protests. The university said that they would opt for smaller “Class Days and school-level ceremonies” so students could celebrate “individually alongside their peers.” The University of Southern California also canceled its commencement ceremony due to safety concerns after protesters occupied the campus for weeks.

Columbia did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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