Heard Around Town

Hochul: No plans to send National Guard to college protests in NY

Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state stands ready to assist the NYPD if they ask, but she doesn’t believe the National Guard is currently necessary.

Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke to reporters about the student protests following an unrelated announcement on April 23, 2024.

Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke to reporters about the student protests following an unrelated announcement on April 23, 2024. Rebecca C. Lewis

A day after meeting with Columbia University administrators and police about public safety on campus amid pro-Palestine protests, Gov. Kathy Hochul said she currently has no plans to call in the National Guard to respond to the protests. She also praised the work of the New York City Police Department, which has arrested hundreds of students at two college protest encampments in the past week.

Some Republicans, including state Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, have called on Hochul to mobilize the National Guard at Columbia University, where pro-Palestine student protesters have set up a multi-day “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on campus. “I don’t think it’s necessary at this time, but if the NYPD calls and says they need help, we’re always there for them,” Hochul told reporters on Tuesday, following an unrelated press conference.

Last week, Columbia University officials invited the NYPD onto the Morningside Heights campus, which resulted in more than 100 student arrests. On Monday night, police arrested another 120 students and faculty members at New York University, after students there set up their own pro-Palestine encampment. “We just want to dial down the temperature right now,” Hochul said when asked about the NYU arrests. “We need to get through this to make sure that every student not only feels safe, but is safe on our campuses,” she said, noting that there are only a few weeks left in the school year. 

On Monday, the governor visited Columbia University, where the protest encampments began before spreading to other campuses. It followed claims of antisemitic rhetoric being used by student protesters that led to widespread condemnation from all levels of elected officials of the alleged antisemitism at the protest. In a post on X Monday, Hochul said she visited Columbia to discuss public safety and combating antisemitism. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, she said her top priority is student safety. “There are a lot of students not feeling safe on campus right now,” the governor said. 

Hochul made no indication that she visited the encampments or student protesters when she went to Columbia. A group of four progressive City Council members who did visit the encampment over the weekend said that what they witnessed did not reflect the dire statements about antisemitism that had come from the likes of Hochul, Mayor Eric Adams and President Joe Biden.

Although there have been some antisemitic incidents reported on or near the Columbia campus, police have said there are no credible threats as a result of protests at this time. Nonetheless, the governor said that she believes student protesters have “gone too far.” “I want to stop this personal attack on each other,” she said. “We're still New Yorkers.”

Hochul praised the NYPD and said it was her belief that the police have the situation under control. “In my opinion (the NYPD) is doing a good job trying to strike the right balance of protecting legitimate protest, legitimate speech,” Hochul said. “But when it ventures into the disruptions that have occurred, they need to take action.”