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Dozens protest decision to drop charges against Columbia protesters

By Mike Wagenheim

(JNS) Some 50 people delivered a simple plea on Monday to Manhattan’s top prosecutor, who opted not even to bargain for pleas from antisemitic protesters who occupied buildings at Columbia University.

“Bragg, Bragg, punish crime. Make sure criminals do their time,” chanted those who protested outside the office of Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney. He appeared to be in the building during the protest, as his car awaited outside.

Shai Davidai, an assistant management professor at Columbia Business School who has been one of those leading criticism of his employer for tolerating Jew-hatred, told those assembled that he was appalled as a father, a Jewish man and a taxpayer.

“We pay for that guy to do his job, and he refuses to do it,” Davidai said at the rally, organized by the grassroots movement End Jew Hatred.

The Israeli native believed two reasons to be behind the fact that Bragg dropped charges against 31 of the 46 people who occupied Columbia’s Hamilton Hall illegally, and whom police subsequently arrested after breaking into the building dramatically

“He gets to decide for himself: He’s either a coward or an antisemite,” Davidai said of Bragg.

Bragg’s office stated last week that there was insufficient evidence to charge the dozens of protesters in question even with criminal trespassing and that they had no criminal history. The district attorney’s office also noted that there was limited video evidence since the masked protesters covered up cameras.

A denial of our most basic rights’

The Manhattan district attorney had visited a Holocaust center just a week before deciding to drop the charges against most of the protesters and declined to prosecute the offenders on the same day that he signed a pledge to prosecute hate crimes fully amid rising antisemitism, according to Alan Mindel, chairman of the board at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Long Island. “The next day, to not prosecute trespass, claiming a lack of evidence when the individuals were literally arrested in the location of their trespass, is on its face, ridiculous,” Mindel told rallyers, who tended to sport American rather than Israeli flags.

“We all know this,” he said. “It’s a denial of our most basic rights, and these rights, they’re not just for us.”

Americans not only enjoy the right to free speech but are also protected against hate speech, threats and violence “against ourselves, our parents, our mothers, our fathers and our children, who cannot get an education that we are paying for, who are not entitled to get involved in a community that they want to join, to have a free expression of ideas,” Mindel said at the rally.

“They have been cheated out of that experience,” he said.

Eden Yadegar, president of the Columbia chapter of Student Supporting Israel, was one of the students at the Ivy League Manhattan school who spoke at the rally. He told those assembled that Bragg’s decision set “a strikingly dangerous precedent,” and he “has given a free pass to those who violently and systematically bring chaos to our streets and our campus under the cover of a mask.”

The same group of protesters that occupied the Columbia building has vowed to disrupt campus life at Columbia more, according to Yadegar.

Columbia’s campus has been shut down since the protests were halted on April 30. There is no date set for the campus to reopen, Columbia’s campus safety department told JNS.

“If we have learned anything from this past year of emboldened hatred and anarchy at Columbia and worldwide, it is to believe our adversaries when they threaten violence,” Yadegar told rally-goers.

The group is committed to violence “explicitly,” she said.

According to Yadegar, Bragg doesn’t “even need to read in between the lines. Just read them.”

‘That is un-American’

Michelle Ahdoot, director of strategy and programming at End Jew Hatred, told attendees that there is a connection between Bragg’s “failure to impose consequences on these criminals” and the attacks against Jews outside a Los Angeles synagogue on Sunday.

Hamas supporters are fueled by the feeling that there is no accountability for their actions, she said.

If Bragg “refuses to prosecute, for whatever reason,” End Jew Hatred will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute in the Manhattan district attorney’s place, Ahdoot told those at the rally.

“What Alvin Bragg is saying to all New Yorkers who follow the law is: ‘If you conceal your identity, if you harass Jews long enough, if you break property, if you take maintenance workers hostage—if you do that, you will not be prosecuted,’” said Shabbos (“Alexander”) Kestenbaum, a Harvard University graduate student and activist.

“That is un-American. That is antisemitic,” Kestenbaum told those assembled. “That is unacceptable in the great city of New York.”

Bragg’s tenure as Manhattan district attorney started out controversially when he instructed prosecutors to pursue jail time for only the most serious of crimes.

He has been rebuked for offering lenient plea deals to defendants accused of attacking Jews, only to reverse course under public pressure. He has also faced criticism for prosecuting former U.S. president and current Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for political reasons.

PHOTO: Columbia students
CAP: Eden Yadegar, president of the Columbia chapter of Student Supporting Israel, speaks at an End Jew Hatred rally outside Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office on June 24, 2024. Photo by Mike Wagenheim.

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