On Friday, January 19th, Columbia University became the center of a disturbing incident when protesters at a pro-Palestinian rally were allegedly sprayed with a hazardous chemical often used by Israel against Palestinians. This act, now under investigation by the NYPD as a possible hate crime, has raised serious concerns about campus safety and the escalation of tensions surrounding the Israel-Palestine conflict.
During the “divestment now” rally organized by Columbia University Apartheid Divest, students reported a foul smell following the spraying incident. Maia, a Columbia student, described hearing a spray sound and then noticing an overpowering odor. The chemical, suspected to be Skunk, a crowd control agent used by the Israeli Defense Forces, caused symptoms like nausea and burning eyes in several attendees, with several students requiring medical attention immediately following the incidents as well as in the days following the attack.
The Columbia Daily Spectator reported that nearly two dozen students experienced adverse effects. Social media posts recognized the smell and symptoms following exposure and flagged the use of Skunk Spray, known for its repugnant smell with many claiming it smells like a combination of raw sewage mixed with rotting corpses. Speculations arose about the perpetrators’ identities, with some students suspecting former IDF soldiers.
Skunk Spray, invented by an Israeli company, has been used in the West Bank and other Palestinian territories since 2008. The IDF notably sprays buildings with the chemical as well as disperses the chemical into crowds and onto Palestinians.
Columbia’s interim provost, Dennis A. Mitchell, confirmed that the university, in collaboration with local and federal authorities, is investigating the incident. The NYPD, treating the case as a potential hate crime, has taken the lead in the probe. Identified suspects have been banned from campus as the investigation continues.
This incident at Columbia University is part of a broader context of heightened tensions on campus since last October. The university has witnessed a series of protests, confrontations, and other incidents reflecting the charged atmosphere around the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The NYPD’s investigation into this chemical attack as a hate crime underscores the seriousness of the incident and chemical attack. It highlights the need for vigilance in protecting the rights and safety of students expressing their views, especially in a university setting known for its diverse opinions and active student engagement in global issues. The NYPD’s investigation into the attack on American students at the American Ivy League by a chemical weapon commonly used by foreign agents is ongoing.
The Columbia University incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for vigilance in protecting the rights and safety of students, particularly in environments where diverse opinions and active political engagement are the norms.