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NYC Mayor Adams Appears Live On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and talked about the liberation of the Columbia University building.

Willie Geist: In a moment we will speak with deputy commissioner of Public Information for the NYPD, Tarik Sheppard. He was on the Bearcat you just saw officers using to enter Hamilton Hall last night, but first, we’re joined live now by New York City Mayor Eric Adams. 

Mr. Mayor, good morning. Can you talk to the series of events yesterday that led Columbia to ask you and the NYPD to step in here and help out with the situation at Hamilton Hall? I know it was a last resort probably for you but also for the University. What brought you there?

Mayor Eric Adams: Really the team, Commissioner Caban and his team, they were speaking with Columbia’s representatives and leadership as well as the other colleges and it was clear after I was briefed probably two days ago the extent of the outside agitators as Columbia University indicated in their letter to us that we had to do something and I really encouraged them to look at this for the safety of the students, for the facilities, and then after breaking into Hamilton Hall I think that the leadership at the school realized that our concern was actually materializing and we had to really move in for the safety of those children and do it in the right way. 

I see the independent observers saw how the Police Department deployed and used precision tactics with minimum amount of force because these were children, to make sure that we could really eradicate the problem that we were seeing. 

Geist: At what point, Mr. Mayor, did you and the NYPD view this as something more than a student-led protest? You mentioned the outside agitators. Columbia talked about them and their students. They said it became clear to them that it wasn’t just students inside that building. At what point was it known to you that this was something more and that there were people who maybe had plans for worse than what some of the students were up to?

Mayor Adams: I believe that when we started seeing footage and we were able to identify what was always my belief based on some of the organization’s individuals, but once we were able to actually confirm that with our intelligence division and one of the individuals’ husband was arrested for and convicted for terrorism on a federal level. 

Once we were able to identify some of the other people, 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 we’re here and I just want to send a clear message out that there are people who are harmful and trying to radicalize our children and we cannot ignore these outside influences. I don’t know if they’re international. I think we need to look into that as well, but there’s an attempt to radicalize young people in this country. 

Mika Brzezinski: That’s where I want to turn to Deputy Commissioner Shepard about that because, as you told us when you were walking in, you were part of the operation last night. Tell us what you discovered along the way. I know you brought in a pretty staggering visual and then what do we know about these outside agitators? Were they very connected with these students? Did they know each other? How did this turn out the way it did and culminate in such a… I mean I’m glad it was peaceful, but how did it get to this point?

Deputy Commissioner Tarik Sheppard, Public Information, Police Department: Right, so the first thing is that, as the mayor just said, once we realized that and expected that the outside agitators would step in, we started to prepare for anything and the worst-case scenarios, which is their job. They’re not coming in to try and unify anybody or to actually protest. They’re coming in to create discord. 

Brzezinski: Right, they really wanted that moment where police and they had that interaction and maybe there could be video of them being dragged off and, some and you guys did a pretty good job of containing it inside the building and just walking them out. I’m sure that’s not what the plan was. 

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: Yeah, our cops did a phenomenal job last night of staying calm, organized, and really a precise operation last night. 

Tell us about this change. 

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: Yes, so when we entered Hamilton Hall, this is not what students bring to school. Okay, this is what professionals bring to campuses and universities. These are heavy industrial chains that were locked with bike locks and this is what we encountered on every door inside of Hamilton Hall. 

In order for our emergency services group to enter into the building, they had to first cut through these chains, but also get rid of debris and barricaded doors that were created with refrigerators, vending machines, chairs, you name it. They pushed it up against those doors to try and stop us from coming in, but our guys would not be stopped. They did a fantastic job of entering into that location and taking people into custody without incident last night. They took about 40 to 50 people into custody inside of the lobby of Hamilton Hall last night. 

Mike Barnicle Mr. Mayor, those 40 or 50 people that were taken into custody last night, what are they going to be charged with and when are they going to be charged?

Mayor Adams: It is a series of items, number one, a form of burglary, trespassing, criminal mischief, cameras were damaged, methodologies that were used for typical actions like this, professionals used. 

Clearly, these children were trained on [the] barricade location, what type of locks to be used. All these methods we saw in our videos of the type of training that they were being issued by these professionals. They’re going to be charged with those crimes. Those who are on the lawn area, the goal is for those students, it would be summer school offenses, but we want the schools across the city to be clear that the property of the schools are for the students, not for those who want to come in and be disruptive to our way of life.

Katty Kay: Can I just clarify the 40 to 50, are they people that you know to be professional agitators? You just referred to them as children. Are they students? Just so we know, how many of the people that you arrested last night were professional agitators who had no affiliation with Columbia University, and how many of them were students who are at Columbia University? 

Mayor Adams: A great question, we are sorting through that now. It has been indicated by Columbia when they reached out that the substantial number were outside influences. When you look at the wearing all black, covering your faces completely, those methodologies, our intelligence divisions study this type of behavior across the globe. 

We just had a team that just returned from overseas looking at some of the methods that are being used with these actions. There’s no coincidence that you’re seeing these young people across the globe being trained with the same type of individuals and that is our concern. It’s more than just Columbia, there’s more than what we saw at City College. This needs to be a clarion call for our country. These are our children and we can’t allow them to be radicalized like children are being radicalized across the globe. 

Geist: New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for your time this morning. We really appreciate it. Mr. Deputy Commissioner, in terms of physical resistance, once you got in the building, you talked about the barricades, you talked about the vending machines and the refrigerators. Did any of the people inside the building confront police physically? Were there any altercations? 

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: There was very minimal confrontation once ESU decided that we were going to enter that building. They did have to deploy a distraction device on the first floor of Hamilton Hall. That made some of the resistors sort of retreat and then ESU was able to push through, cut the chains, get through the debris, and then we took them into custody without incident. 

Geist: So no injuries last night? 

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: No injuries as of now. We’re still sorting through all of the prisoners that we took into custody, but as of now, what we saw was just a calm, precise operation. ESU did a phenomenal job last night based on what they were dealing with. 

Brzezinski: Yes. 

Geist: As we said a minute ago, Columbia has asked you all to stay on campus through graduation and even a couple of days after. How do you envision the NYPD presence now for the next several weeks at Columbia? You may have arrested some of them professionals last night, but there will still be protests, not just on campus, but in the area. Right. How do see your presence there? 

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: The police commissioner and the mayor will stay in constant contact with Columbia. However, we’re partners in this. We don’t want to see this return to what it was last night or before. 

However, Columbia does have to take some onus and make sure they secure their campus, but we will be there as a partner to make sure that it doesn’t return. What that looks like, we haven’t decided yet, but we’ll stay in constant contact. 

Brzezinski: I think the question about who the outside agitators are, how many there are, that’s a longer investigation, and staying on campus could be helpful. 

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely, and we’ll be a good partner in that way, but we have to make sure that Columbia’s doing their part to secure their campus. When needed, the NYPD will be there like we are for this entire city 365 days a year.

Geist: And you all said yesterday, part of the reason you did decide to go in with Columbia’s help and assistance was because you had recognized people who were known to you at the NYPD as not students, but people who were there to cause trouble, is that true?

Deputy Commissioner Sheppard: Right, that’s true, and to make it clear, Columbia identified many of these individuals as non-students as well. Once they recognized that and then they broke into Hamilton Hall, that was a clear indication that something had to be done. Then they reached out and their letter was pretty specific.

Brzezinski: Okay, NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Tarik Sheppard, thank you for joining us. Thank you. We really appreciate everything you’re doing. Still ahead on Morning Joe, much more.

May 1, 2024 New York City Hall

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