U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Student reporter driven off Columbia campus, kettled by NYPD

Incident Details

REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

New York Police Department officers stand guard while others enter a Columbia University building occupied by pro-Palestinian protesters on April 30, 2024. A Columbia student reporter was detained in an off-campus kettle by the NYPD during the operation.

— REUTERS/David Dee Delgado
April 30, 2024

Samaa Khullar, a reporting fellow with the Columbia Journalism School, was among a group of student reporters that New York City police drove off campus and detained in a kettle for more than an hour as officers rounded up protesters on April 30, 2024. 

Due to restrictions on outside press access to the campus, Khullar and other student reporters were the only media allowed there on April 30, when New York Police Department officers cleared Hamilton Hall, a building that had been occupied by protesters. 

“It’s probably going to be the day I remember most out of my experience here. I was like, there’s no one here except us,” Khullar, who has been covering pro-Palestian demonstrations on the campus, told CNN in an interview. “Campus was on lockdown and no outside press was allowed in.”  

In an article about her experience published by Curbed, Khullar wrote that she was with other reporters from the graduate school and reporters with both the Columbia Spectator and campus radio station WKCR outside Hamilton Hall at around 9 p.m. when NYPD officers arrived.

The officers “immediately told us to move away from the stairs” at the front entrance to Hamilton Hall and “began to kettle us,” Khullar recounts. 

The officers then drove some of the reporters toward John Jay Hall, a residential building across from Hamilton, she said. 

Other student reporters who were taking photographs of the encampment on Columbia’s main quad were ordered to disperse, Khullar wrote. Jelani Cobb, dean of Columbia Journalism School and a staff writer for the New Yorker, and journalism professor Sheila Coronel let those reporters into Pulitzer Hall, the home of the journalism school. Police told them to keep the reporters inside the building, Khullar wrote.

Khullar said that she avoided being driven into John Jay or Pulitzer, but “I found myself in the biggest group of student reporters and professors herded by police outside of campus” to 114th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, where they were surrounded by “dozens” of officers and confined to that location for more than an hour.

She told CNN, “They made us leave campus. We kept yelling, ‘we’re the press, we’re the press.’ It was not going through their heads.”

“We began to realize that there was no press left at Hamilton to document what was going on,” Khullar wrote. 

Police said they arrested 109 people during the sweep on Hamilton, the Columbia Spectator reported.

“For many of the student reporters, it was our first time being completely shut out from reporting on an event that happened on campus,” Khullar wrote.

Khullar wrote that the reporters forced off campus weren’t allowed back in until after midnight after professors in the journalism building assisted in getting them escorted by police into Pulitzer Hall. 

Khullar and the NYPD did not respond to requests for comment.

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