Hundreds Gather to Support N.Y.U. Protest
Hundreds of people gathered outside the New York University student center early Friday in support of protesters who had been barricaded in the building's cafeteria for more than 24 hours and who had ignored the university's 1 a.m. deadline to end the demonstration.
At one point, some in the crowd surged toward the student center, the Kimmel Center for University Life on Washington Square South, and were pushed back by dozens of police officers who lined metal barricades in front of the building.
The confrontation ended after a few minutes of pushing and shoving, and it did not appear that anyone was arrested. Some of the officers used pepper spray. No serious injuries were reported.
More police cars soon arrived, and officers waded into the crowd, unfurling metal batons with a sharp snap.
The number of people outside the center grew as the 1 a.m. deadline to end the demonstration came and went. The protesters who were barricaded in the cafeteria, using a megaphone and shouting from a third-floor balcony, urged passersby to join the crowd below, although it was often difficult to hear what they had to say.
The protesters also used a Web site, takebacknyu.com, to provide updates about what was happening in the cafeteria and to ask students to come out to support them.
The students vowed to continue the occupation of the cafeteria until they were able to present a list of demands to school administrators. The demands included thorough annual reporting of the university's operating budget, expenditures and endowment. They also want the university to provide 13 scholarships a year to students from the Gaza Strip and to give surplus supplies to the Islamic University of Gaza.
The students also called on the school to allow graduate teaching assistants to unionize and to freeze tuition.
On Thursday, a university spokesman said the two sides had been unable to arrange a meeting. John Beckman, the spokesman, said, "Regrettably, the students rejected our offer of dialogue, insisting on remaining in the room and setting a number of preconditions."
By 1 a.m. on Friday, about 300 people had gathered in front of the student center, and hundreds more looked on from nearby sidewalks and from Washington Square. Some of them chanted and banged on drums to show their support.
A group of a few dozen people stood nearby wearing bandannas across the lower half of their faces. They linked arms and held a black banner inscribed with the single word "Resist."
By 2 a.m., many of the supporters had drifted away, and one officer began telling those who remained that the police would begin clearing the streets at 3 a.m.
A few fights broke out through the night. One man wearing a parka with a fur-lined hood, who declined to give his name, confronted the bandanna-wearing protesters and began shoving them and shouting at them in anger. Some of the crowd shouted back, demanding that the man leave the protesters alone.
The occupation, organized by a student group called Take Back NYU!, began just before 10 p.m. on Wednesday when about 70 students took over the dining room in the Kimmel Center, a modern building that is a hub of student activities and includes administration offices and a theater.
The protest was similar to one in December at the New School a few blocks away, and some of those at N.Y.U. said they found inspiration in the New School occupation, which also took place in a cafeteria.
Not all those in the dining room were N.Y.U. students. Saher Almaita, 22, a senior philosophy major at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., said curiosity and sympathy led him to join the protest.
"We're so alienated from each other that the opportunity to do something together is a rush," he said, then added with a smile, "I want to experience humanity to its fullest."
The students' numbers in the cafeteria dropped briefly on Thursday when some left to go to classes. School officials had sought to keep others from joining, but groups of protesters dashed their way past security officers about 1 p.m. and again at 9 p.m.
Campus opinion during the day was divided; some denounced the occupation as disruptive and others were more encouraging. "I don't support all of what they're doing," said Adrian Untermyer, 19, a freshman, "but I support the fact that they're asserting themselves.