U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

NYPD confines student reporter to building, threatens arrest as Columbia protests cleared

Incident Details

Francesca Maria Lorenzini

New York Police Department officers stand guard at Columbia University, where a student reporter was forced into a campus building and threatened with arrest on April 30, 2024, during an NYPD operation to clear out pro-Palestinian protesters.

— Francesca Maria Lorenzini
April 30, 2024

Francesca Maria Lorenzini, a student reporter at the Columbia Journalism School, was among a group of student journalists forced into a campus building by New York City police and threatened with arrest on April 30, 2024, as officers retook another building occupied by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Lorenzini had been covering the protests on Columbia University’s campus for City Newsroom, a news outlet staffed by journalism school students. Due to restrictions on outside press access to the campus, Lorenzini and other student reporters were the only media allowed there that day, when New York Police Department officers in riot gear cleared the occupied Hamilton Hall.

Lorenzini told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she and other student journalists were reporting outside Hamilton Hall around 9 p.m. when NYPD officers arrived at the campus. She said she was wearing a Columbia Journalism School press pass around her neck and a sign on her back that said “press.”

She said that for a brief time, the reporters were able to remain in front of Hamilton, but then police began to progressively push them away from the building. That prevented the journalists from reporting on what was happening inside or taking videos of the operation, in which more than 100 protesters were arrested.

After about an hour, Lorenzini said, police began to clear a protest encampment on campus, and officers then told the reporters to go into the journalism school building.

“Shortly before they started clearing the encampment, they pushed us into Pulitzer Hall, which is the main building of the Columbia Journalism School, telling us not to go out, otherwise we would have been arrested,” she said, adding that there was no physical contact from the police.

She said one of the journalism school deans went out to talk to the NYPD, “telling them that we were press, we’re not just students.”

Lorenzini said she remained in Pulitzer Hall for about an hour and a half before she was allowed to leave.

“Nobody was there to document what was happening” during the police operation, Lorenzini noted, “So I feel like that night, freedom of the press was really severely limited.”

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].