Appalling behavior by NYC mayor and police

The mayor of New York City Eric Adams and the police department have used the claim of outside agitators to justify their use of force in clearing the protestors from Columbia University. Adams pointed to the presence of Nahlia Al-Arian as the “tipping point” in his decision to authorize the military-style raids on the campus.

Who is she? Jeremy Scahill writes about how this 63-year old retired fourth grade teacher and grandmother, whose family is from Gaza and who has lost about 200 of her family and friends in the recent Israeli onslaught there, ended up as the embodiment of ‘outside agitators’ that required such brutal force.

Al-Arian has five children, four of whom are journalists or filmmakers. On April 25, two of her daughters, Laila and Lama, both award-winning TV journalists, visited the encampment established by Columbia students to oppose the war in Gaza. Laila, an executive producer at Al Jazeera English with Emmys and a George Polk Award to her name, is a graduate of Columbia’s journalism school. Lama was the recipient of the prestigious 2021 Alfred I. duPont–Columbia Award for her reporting for Vice News on the 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut.

The two sisters traveled to Columbia as journalists to see the campus, and Nahla joined them.

Although she was on campus for only an hour, that was not her only ‘crime’. She is also the wife of Samir Al-Arian, a professor of history at the University of South Florida, whom some might remember from the infamous case over twenty years ago when the Bush administration kept him in prison even though he had been acquitted of terrorism charges and refused to release him until he agreed to a plea deal that resulted in his residency in the US being canceled and deported.

“This case remains one of the most troubling chapters in this nation’s crackdown after 9-11,” Al-Arian’s lawyer, Jonathan Turley, wrote in 2014 when the case was officially dropped. “Despite the jury verdict and the agreement reached to allow Dr. Al-Arian to leave the country, the Justice Department continued to fight for his incarceration and for a trial in this case. It will remain one of the most disturbing cases of my career in terms of the actions taken by our government.”

That federal prosecutors approved Al-Arian’s plea deal gave a clear indication that the U.S. government knew Al-Arian was not an actual terrorist, terrorist facilitator, or any kind of threat; the Bush administration, after all, was not in the habit of letting suspected terrorists walk.

Samir Al-Arian had tweeted a photo of his wife on the campus, taken during her one hour there. It was this link that enabled Adams to make outrageous claims.

The night of the raids on Columbia, police and other city officials began leaking to journalists that the wife of a convicted terrorist was on the campus, cavorting with the student protesters who had seized Hamilton Hall.

A reporter for CBS News tweeted the allegation, citing City Hall sources. During a broadcast on CNN late that night, the network showed Sami Al-Arian’s tweet with Nahla’s picture. “We’re learning tonight that the wife of an indicted terrorist was on the campus,” said host Laura Coates, adding that “a source” had tipped off CNN about Al-Arian’s tweet. (CNN and Coates, a former federal prosecutor, did not respond to requests for comment.)

In a blitz of interviews the next two mornings, Adams, the New York mayor, repeatedly mentioned Al-Arian’s presence at Columbia and said it was a crucial part of his decision to authorize the military-style raid on the building. As evidence of “outside agitators” directing the protests, Adam cited Al-Arian as the one specific example to make his case.

“One of the individuals’ husband was arrested for and convicted for terrorism on a federal level,” Adams said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I knew that there was no way I was going to allow those children to be exploited the way they were being exploited, and many people thought that this was just a natural evolution of a protest. It was not. These were professionals that were here.”

Adams echoed the tone and tenor of his remarks on “CBS Mornings,” but on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” Adams went further, saying Nahla’s presence at Columbia was the impetus for the raid.

“What really was a tipping point for me was when I learned that one of the outside agitator’s, professional’s husband was arrested for federal terrorism charges,” he said. “I knew I could not sit back and state that I’m going to allow this to continue to escalate. That is why I made that determination” — to raid the campus. (The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)

The mayor, the police, and the president of Columbia are receiving massive criticism for their highly aggressive over-reaction to the protests. Their flimsy justifications for doing so are being exposed.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    “the U.S. government knew Al-Arian was not an actual terrorist, terrorist facilitator, or any kind of threat; ”

    The consequences of Dubya’s criminal administration live on. It is good that people get reminded of this.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Myself @ 1
    When Obama et al decided to ‘move on’ without holding people accountable for their crimes under Dubya, they paved the way for what we have seen both during Trump, and, -at state and city level- under Biden. Police brutality against peaceful protests being accepted? Of course it is, it was never otherwise.

    A rotten system will keep getting worse unless you fight to make it better.

  3. Katydid says

    This is what I was referring to, the “weaponized fear”. Someone on the other side no doubt squealed, “Oh, I’m SO AFRAID!” and the police rushed in to apprehend a 63-year-old grandmother to appease the “fears” of the liars.

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