U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student reporter confined to building during Columbia protests

Incident Details

REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

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

— REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs
April 30, 2024

Columbia Journalism School student Oishika Neogi was among a group of student reporters herded away from a pro-Palestinian protest, confined to a campus building and threatened with arrest by New York City police, who were retaking another building occupied by protesters on April 30, 2024.

Neogi, an investigative journalism fellow and master’s student at the school, told the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker that she had been reporting on the campus protests since mid-April, when protesters set up an encampment. Due to restrictions on outside press access to the campus, Neogi 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.

Neogi told the Tracker that when the police entered the campus at around 9 p.m., she was stationed at the side of Hamilton Hall, while other student journalists were in front of the building or at the center of campus. “As soon as they came in, they started pushing us away from Hamilton,” she said. Police had batons and were yelling to “move back,” but did not hit any of the journalists, Neogi added.

She said she was wearing her Overseas Press Club ID around her neck and a student press sign on her back, and had her Columbia student press ID in her bag.

Neogi and other journalists standing with her were forced by the NYPD to move to an exterior staircase near Hamilton where she could not see the building or what was happening in front of it. She said she was in that location for about 45 minutes. During that time, “We just didn’t know what was happening at Hamilton, which was the biggest problem.”

Neogi then went back to Pulitzer Hall, where the journalism school is located and where she was keeping her equipment, and planned to go back out to report. She learned from a colleague, however, that police were outside, warning that people who tried to leave would be arrested. She then went with faculty members and the school’s dean to the gate of the building to speak with police, who told them, “Stay in, or you can get arrested.”

“Basically, Pulitzer was on lockdown after that. All student journalists who were on campus who were covering this had to be inside Pulitzer Hall. And we couldn’t see anything,” Neogi said.

She added that there was no official notification from the police about when they were allowed to exit the building. Neogi left around 1:30 a.m., but still could not go near Hamilton or other areas where there was police activity.

“We should have been in front of Hamilton. There was no other press from the outside,” she said.

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].