Tensions escalated at Columbia University on Wednesday night as anti-Israel protests turned violent, resulting in the arrest of at least four individuals, according to law enforcement officials. The ongoing demonstrations, which began in the early hours of Wednesday with hundreds of students protesting around nearly 60 tents on the lawn outside Butler Library, have sparked controversy and drawn national attention.

Christopher Briones, 30, was arrested for allegedly getting in the way of officers trying to arrest someone else on the Morningside Heights campus around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Briones reportedly struck and scratched a police officer on the arm, causing cuts, and was subsequently charged with assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and obstructing governmental administration.

Two other protesters, Jessica Knapp, 35, and Miranda Levine, 26, were also arrested and charged with resisting arrest and various other offenses. A minor was briefly taken into custody but later released to their guardian without being formally arrested or charged.

Footage circulating online showed multiple people wearing Palestinian keffiyehs being grabbed by NYPD officers who appeared to be holding zip ties or other restraints. Witnesses claimed that the officers were aggressive in their approach, with one protester stating, "It took 20 cops to arrest four people."


The demonstrations, which have been ongoing despite an overnight rainstorm, have seen protesters waving signs and chanting demands for university officials to divest from Israel in light of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip. Some of the chants included, "Israel is a s--t state," "Israel is a fake state," "Brick by brick, wall by wall, Israel will fall," and "Brick by brick, wall by wall, Zionism will fall."

During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., questioned Columbia University President Dr. Nemat "Minouche" Shafik about a January incident involving anti-Israel activists. Omar repeated an unverified claim that the incident was a "chemical attack by former Israeli soldiers," which was also reported uncritically by some mainstream media outlets.

However, according to a recent lawsuit filed by one of the pro-Israel students who was suspended for releasing the substance, the alleged "toxic chemical substance" was, in fact, non-toxic flatulence sprays called "Liquid A--" and "Wet Farts." The lawsuit states that the student sprayed the novelty item into the air as a "harmless expression of his speech."

President Shafik rebutted Omar's characterization of the incident, explaining that it was believed to be an "odorous substance" and that the matter was still under investigation by the police. She also disputed Omar's claim that it took the university more than four days to reach out to affected students.

The student who released the spray claimed in the lawsuit that the university rushed to silence him, placed him on interim suspension, and published a statement accusing him of a hate crime, placing him in "grave jeopardy." The student maintained that the spray was not directed at anti-Israel protesters but was sprayed in the general vicinity.