Eric Adams Seizes Role as Face of the Crackdown on Student Protests

Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday defended the overnight arrests of nearly 300 campus protesters in New York City, praising the police for using restraint and arguing that protesters were antisemitic and led by outsiders who were part of a global effort to “radicalize young people.”

Mr. Adams said at a news conference at the police headquarters that he had advised Columbia University’s leaders that the police had seen a shift in tactics at the protests led by “outside agitators” and that “you have more than a peaceful protest on your hands.”

“They are attempting to disrupt our city and we are not going to permit it to happen,” Mr. Adams said.

The police arrested 119 protesters at Columbia University on Tuesday and 173 people at the City College of New York after leaders at both schools requested assistance from the New York Police Department, the police said.

For much of the weekslong protest at Columbia, university leaders have remained in the background, making much of their public pronouncements through campuswide advisories.

In their absence, Mr. Adams, a Democrat and former police officer, has forcefully stepped in, embracing a role that adheres to his law enforcement background, his reputation as a mayor focused on reducing disorder and strong support for Israel over many years.

As pro-Palestinian protests have erupted on campuses across New York City, Mr. Adams has gone beyond calling for order, calling protesters “despicable” and encouraging university leaders to quickly remove encampments.

Mr. Adams said on Wednesday that he was proud of the police officers who removed a Palestinian flag that was hung from a flagpole at Columbia University and replaced it with an American flag — an image the police promoted widely.

“Blame me for being proud to be an American,” Mr. Adams said. “We’re not surrendering our way of life to anyone.”

City officials and the police said that the use of large chains to block doors and other tactics showed that “professional” activists were influencing student protesters. They have not named the outsiders who were involved in the protests and declined on Wednesday to say how many of the protesters who were arrested were not affiliated with the colleges.

Left-leaning Democrats have criticized the mayor’s approach. Ana María Archila, a director of the New York Working Families Party, said that the police response on Tuesday was “reckless, escalatory and put the entire university community in harm’s way.”

“This is a shameful day in our city’s history, and one that will not be forgotten,” she said.

Jeffery C. Mays and Maria Cramer contributed reporting.

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