New York's Cooper Union was founded in 1859 for the advancement of science and art. “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” founder Peter Cooper said. He said he looked forward to a time when “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”
Yet on Wednesday afternoon, a group of about 50 students, many of them Jewish, were barricaded in the school's library while anti-Israel activist students banged on the door and screamed at them. Those anti-Israel activists wore facemasks or wrapped keffiyehs over their faces so as to not be recognized. Others wore sunglasses and hoodie sweatshirts.
Speaking to The Post Millennial, one student who was inside the library said that the pro-Hamas protest, which saw students banging on the door with what she called sticks, or cardboard tubes to hold drawings, began after Jewish students planned to hold a vigil for those lost in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
That, the student said, spurred the students who oppose Israel and support Hamas' call for a ceasefire in the wake of their brutal attack on Israel, to hold a rally. “The pro-Palestinian protesters told us that people had a one-sided response and they wanted Cooper Union to take pro-Palestinian action.”
There was a walkout planned by a pro-Palestinian group, the student said. That walkout was from about 1 pm to 3 pm, during which time Jewish students staged a silent counter-protest. The pro-Hamas protesters took their grievance to the president's office. The group had very specific demands.
“At that point,” the student told The Post Millennial, “me and a couple of students had a Zoom class, and went to the library to take the class. Some other Jewish students also went to the library to do work and talk about school. Then we heard this banging on the doors and we could see they were trying to get in, and they had these sticks that they were using to pound on the doors.” Those sticks had been holding Palestinian flags.
It was at that point, the student said, that the librarians told them they had locked the doors. The student could no longer focus on the Zoom class.
“Why were they after you?” The Post Millennial asked.
“You'd have to ask them,” the student said, “I would say because we're basically Jewish students. That's the only thing that makes sense. After they couldn't get into the doors, they started coming around to the windows where we were, looking at the tables and making faces through the windows at us.”
They were locked in for about 20 minutes. The students inside the library were offered safe passage out of the space through a back door and passageways leading around the mob of students, but instead, they chose to stay, wait for the students to leave, and exit through the front door. The Cooper Union president did make use of the backdoor exit, leaving the students barricaded in the library.
“They told us that there were these backdoors to the basement, that we could leave out that way, the way the president had left, and we told them we wanted to wait it out and walk out through the front door,” the student said.
This they did, but not before calling the police. The police, the students later learned, were told by the school administration that everything was fine and they were not needed. “We called the police from inside the library because we felt threatened and the police told us that they couldn't come in because the school said everything was fine.”
Families outside the school called police as well as on behalf of the students, but they never came, the student said. Campus security eventually came and cleared the area, but not before the students had stormed up the stairs toward the president's office to make their demands. The school said that the NYPD was there the entire time.
The barricading of students in the library followed a three-hour protest during which activists demanded that the school's president Laura Sparks address the Israel-Hamas war and divest school assets from the Jewish state.
Videos showed terrorist supporters outside the library holding up antisemitic signage in the window as Jewish students, including one wearing a yarmulkah, were attempting to study.
According to posts by Jake Novak, the former media director at the Israeli Consulate in New York, on X, the Jewish students were trapped in the school library at approximately 5:15 pm.
“My sources tell me,” he said, “several Jewish students are currently locked in the school library as a Hamas rally outside of the Cooper Union building learn(ed) the Jews were afraid and sitting in the library, then brought the protest inside and are barricading all exits.”
He continued, “Police have been called for 40 min and are afraid to get involved. Security locked the students in as they are worried they cannot protect the Jews [right now],“ and shared a video of the Jewish students standing in the lobby of the building as protestors could be heard banging on the doors and glass.
About an hour later, Novak said that the Jewish students were led out of the library through tunnels.
Despite the videos, an official at Cooper Union minimized the incident in a statement. “The Library was closed for approximately 20 minutes while student protestors moved through our building. Some students who were previously in the library remained during this time. All students have now dispersed.”
Resources from the school on how to deal with racism reference black students, but not Jewish students.
A spokesperson for the NYPD told The Forward that the protest was “somewhat disorderly” but that no one was arrested.
Democrat Mayor Eric Adams posted on X, “We have been in contact with the NYPD and Cooper Union leadership about the situation that unfolded on campus. The NYPD was present on scene and was coordinating with school security during the entire event, ensuring no one was injured.” He added, “While the students at Cooper Union have a right to peacefully protest, hate has no place in our city.”
Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul also wrote on the platform, “State officials are in close communication with local law enforcement regarding protests on the Cooper Union campus tonight. Antisemitism and all forms of hate and intimidation are unacceptable and have no place in New York State.”
Since Hamas massacred over 1,400 Israelis and injured thousands more on Oct 7th, antisemitism on college campuses and throughout the US has been skyrocketing.