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Adams says no talk of campaign cash on Columbia protest call in Washington Post report

Mayor Adams denied Tuesday he was part of a conversation about political contributions on a call with businessmen who reportedly pushed him to deploy the NYPD to Columbia University in response to anti-Israel protests there.

His remark came during a City Hall press conference, a week after the Washington Post first reported Adams took part in an April 26 video call with executives including hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb and billionaire Len Blavatnik, where they discussed pressuring Columbia to request police on campus, using private investigators to help the NYPD in policing the protests and political donations.

“Not one time on that call with me was any comment made about donations,” Adams said “We talked about the topic of what was happening on our college campuses.”

“I thought we should have went in sooner, but I was very clear, we’re not going in without permission from the school,” he noted, referring to Columbia. “It doesn’t matter who calls me, doesn’t matter who lobbies me, doesn’t matter who comes to visit me — you have to get permission from the school. We followed that.”

Not teaching speech: University crackdowns are a cop-out

Barry Williams for New York Daily News

(Center to right) NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban, Chief of Patrol John Chell and NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Operations Kay Daughtry watch as NYPD officers remove pro-Palestinian protestors from a lawn at Columbia University on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Adams also expanded on the question of using private investigators, saying that while none were hired, the city would not necessarily turn away information provided by someone else. In response to the Post’s story, Adams’ press office told the outlet last week that the NYPD didn’t use private eyes to help manage the protests.

 “So what?” Adams said. “All the time people go out and try to find information to assist investigations. We do not hire private investigators … If any information is something that we can use, we will, but we’re not soliciting it.”

Adams and his team have framed the story as anti-semitic, with City Hall spokesman Fabien Levy claiming it centered on the suggestion that Jewish donors “secretly plotted to influence government operations … an all too familiar antisemitic trope.” On Tuesday, Adams contended the story had an “anti-semitic hint” to it. The Post has defended its reporting, saying Monday that it regularly reports on wealthy people working to influence public policy.

“People were saying during the protest: ‘Kill Jews.’ I mean, why is that all right? I’m blown away,” Adams said during Tuesday’s press conference. “Do you know what would have happened in this city if a college campus would have had a protest saying ‘kill Blacks’? That would not be tolerated in this city. We’ve normalized antisemitism.”

NYPD officers make arrests of Pro-Palestinian protestors on lawn of Columbia University Thursday April 18, 2024 in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)
NYPD officers detain and remove pro-Palestinian protestors from a lawn at Columbia University on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Manhattan, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Adams’ latest responses to questions about the controversial Columbia protests and the ensuing Washington Post story come as he’s fending off separate criticism over the NYPD’s response to pro-Palestinian protests in Brooklyn over the weekend.

Video emerged from that demonstration showing cops punching protesters during what’s known as the Nakba Day march, an annual event held in Bay Ridge to commemorate what many Palestinian views as the “catastrophe” of displacement that coincided with the formation of Israel.

Over the weekend, Councilman Justin Brannan, who represents the neighborhood, criticized the NYPD’s handling of the event, saying it’s occurred “every year for the past decade without incident.”

“I saw no evidence of actions by protesters today that warranted such an aggressive response from NYPD,” he added.

Police restrain pro-Palestinian protesters during Nakba Day demonstration and arrest some demonstrators on May 18, 2024, in Brooklyn, New York.

Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images

Police restrain pro-Palestinian protesters during a Nakba Day demonstration on Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Brooklyn, New York, United States. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Adams said Monday that his administration would “review” the police department’s response of that protest, but at the time did not specify exactly what that review would entail. The mayor then said Tuesday that “we will investigate” it. Spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak later clarified the NYPD conducts its own review when there are allegations of excessive force, and that in this case, the NYPD is reviewing the matter, not an outside entity.

The mayor also pushed back Tuesday on assessments like Brannan’s, pointing to one protester climbing atop a bus, chants of “Death to America,” the flying of Hamas’ flag and protesters spitting on cops.

“Listen, we are a firm believer in the right to protest. Even if I don’t like it. I don’t like calling for ‘death to America,’ I don’t like the destruction of it, I don’t like Hamas’ flag, which is a murderous, despicable terrorist group. I don’t like seeing that flag flying, but you know what, this is the country. You have a right to do that,” he said.

“You don’t have the right to spit in the face of police officers, you don’t have the right to ride on top of a bus, you don’t have the right to stop the flow of traffic … you don’t have a right to disobey the rules,” he added. “I saw those videos. Now if officers used more force than necessary, we’re going to do an investigation.”



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