Columbia Professor and NYPD Intelligence Director Leads Crackdown on Student Protesters

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Edited By Adam Rizvi, The India Observer, TIO: New York — Columbia University professor Rebecca Weiner, who also serves as the intelligence director for the New York Police Department (NYPD), played a key role in the controversial police operation against student protesters at the university, Mayor Eric Adams announced. The protests were against what students described as Israel’s genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip.

In a press conference on May 1, Mayor Adams praised Weiner for her pivotal role in the police action, which resulted in nearly 300 arrests. “She was the one monitoring the situation,” Adams said, crediting Weiner and her team for conducting an investigation that led to the crackdown.

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The police response, which occurred on April 30, saw riot gear-clad officers storm Columbia’s Hamilton Hall after students occupied the building earlier in the day. The NYPD used a heavily armored Bear Cat vehicle to enter the building through a second-floor window and arrest the protesters inside. Another team dismantled the encampment outside.

Students began their protest on April 17, demanding Columbia University divest from its Israeli-related investments. Their movement has since spread to over 100 universities in the United States and even abroad, with similar actions reported at Leeds University in the UK and the Sorbonne in Paris.

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Weiner, an adjunct professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), also serves as the civilian executive in charge of the NYPD’s Intelligence & Counterterrorism Bureau. In this dual role, she develops policy and strategic priorities for the Bureau, which maintains an office in Tel Aviv, Israel. This office coordinates with Israeli security forces, reflecting Weiner’s role as a bridge between New York and Israeli intelligence operations.

An investigation by the Associated Press in 2011 revealed that the NYPD’s Counterterrorism Bureau, under which Weiner operates, had a “Demographics Unit” that secretly spied on Muslims and Palestine solidarity activists, often collaborating with the CIA. This unit was reportedly modeled on Israeli intelligence operations in the West Bank.

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Weiner, who has a legal background and negotiated with lawyers for local Muslims affected by the Demographics Unit’s actions, comes from a notable family. Her grandfather, Stanislaw Ulam, was a Polish Jewish mathematician who contributed to the development of the hydrogen bomb.

During the May 1 press conference, Weiner attributed the need for the police action to the radical rhetoric and symbols used by the student protesters. She cited the wearing of “headbands associated with foreign terrorist organizations” and the circulation of Osama Bin Laden’s 2002 letter on TikTok as examples of concerning behavior. Weiner also mentioned a brief visit to the protest site by Nahla Al-Arian, whom she mistakenly identified as linked to terrorism, as justification for the crackdown.

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Mayor Adams supported Weiner’s stance, emphasizing the threat of radicalization among young people. “There is a movement to radicalize young people, and I’m not gonna wait until it’s done,” he stated, warning of professionals aiming to influence youth and defend their minds.

Adams, who has participated in New York City’s annual Celebrate Israel parade, expressed frustration over foreign influence in American schools, citing his family’s military service as a point of personal contention.

The Columbia crackdown has sparked widespread debate over the balance between campus free speech and security measures, with many questioning the extent of the NYPD’s involvement in university affairs.

Originally published in The Grayzone 

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