New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Over 150 hold demonstration outside Paulson, attempt to enter lobby

The university said a student encouraged a group of non-NYU affiliated protesters to enter the building.
Dharma Niles
(Dharma Niles for WSN)

More than 150 pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrated outside the Paulson Center on Saturday, with a smaller demonstration inside the building’s atrium organized by students also taking place. One student called protesters standing outside to enter the building’s lobby against directions not to, according to NYU. However, the student told WSN they were attempting to tell protesters to go around the building and keep them from entering.

The university also said the demonstrators covered “at least one” security camera with stickers and were “banging on the windows” and “yanking at the doors” of the building. During the demonstration, organized by the pro-Palestinian advocacy group Within Our Lifetime, protesters also sprayed fake blood along the side of the building and placed messages reading “from the river to the sea” and “from Puerto Rico to Palestine occupation is a crime” on its glass exterior. The crowd chanted outside the building, saying “we are here to refuse NYU’s global empire” and “they don’t want us here.” 

“On Saturday afternoon, as a large crowd of demonstrators — estimated at 150-200 people — was passing by the Paulson Center as it moved northward along Mercer St., a student in the Paulson Atrium — disregarding the directions of Campus Safety personnel — sought to summon the demonstrators, who were not NYU community members, into the Paulson Center,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN. “We take these events very, very seriously, and are reviewing the matter.” 

The student said that as they tried to tell protesters outside not to enter the lobby, where there was a demonstration organized by Shut it Down NYU, a New York City Police Department officer tried to push them out of the atrium. The student said the officer thought they were part of a group of protesters unaffiliated with NYU who were trying to enter the building. The university, however, said it “saw no evidence” that the crowd was interested in entering the building prior to the student calling them over, and that the student was “interposing herself in the doorway in an apparent effort to facilitate the demonstrators’ entry into the building despite knowing that entry to the building was limited to NYU ID card holders and despite directions to stop.”

The student said they directed protesters to go toward Greene Street Walk, a space running along the building’s west side.

“I was trying to make the distinction to him that I was, in fact, an NYU student that had ID and could present ID and could legitimize my presence in the lobby,” the student, who asked to remain anonymous due to safety concerns, told WSN. “He was being very, incredibly aggressive and pushing me.”

According to an agreement NYU reached with the city determining requirements for the construction and operation of Paulson back in 2012, the university has the right to temporarily close the atrium “for maintenance and repair or for security reasons.” On its website, NYU refers to Paulson’s public atrium as “accessible to the public,” and as per the agreement, the Greene Street Walk must “be open at all times.” Unlike Paulson’s atrium, the walkway is a privately owned public space, and must be “provided and maintained by the property owner in perpetuity” according to regulations and city approvals.

At the walkway, protesters criticized John Paulson — the building’s namesake — noting that he made $15 billion from betting against subprime housing loans in the period before the 2008 recession. Protesters also condemned Paulson’s large real-estate portfolio in Puerto Rico, accusing him of building “his fortune off of stolen land.”

The university increased the presence of Campus Safety and NYPD officers over the last few months as part of its 10 Point Plan, a series of safety and conduct guidelines first announced in October. The plan, which some students have criticized for increasing law enforcement presence on campus, was implemented amid concerns of rising antisemitism and Islamophobia, according to a previous statement from the university. 

The university recently indicated that it hopes to reduce this presence in the future, with President Linda Mills and Senior Vice President for University Life Jason Pina having said they “are hopeful that we have reached a point where the need for sustained safety enforcement — including reliance on the NYPD — is now behind us, and we remain ready to tap NYPD through our strong partnership on an as-needed basis as we move forward” in an online update

Update, April 2: This article has been updated with a statement from a university spokesperson and additional information from the student protester.

Correction, April 2: A previous version of this article incorrectly characterized the size of the protest and the actions of the group of demonstrators. It also incorrectly described the student’s account of events at the protest. The article has been fixed, and WSN regrets the errors.

Contact Mariapaula Gonzalez at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Dharma Niles
Dharma Niles, Deputy News Editor
Dharma Niles is a first-year student currently studying journalism and politics at CAS, and has yet to choose between the six different minors she'd also like to pursue. You can generally find her playing NYT games, skittering around the city with a Celsius in hand or on Instagram @dharmaniles.

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