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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia University is gone this morning, two weeks after students first pitched their tents, and the campus building that protesters had seized is now empty. New York City police used force last night to zip tie the hands of dozens of student protesters and haul them away in buses. NYPD also carried out mass arrests at nearby City College of New York. NPR's Brian Mann was on the street at Columbia. Brian, what did you see?

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Yeah. Hundreds of students were defiant at first, A. They were chanting anti-Israel slogans and calling for divestment from doing business with Israel.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Intifada, intifada.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Intifada, intifada.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Long live the intifada.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Long live the intifada.

MANN: At one point, A, a student appeared on top of Hamilton Hall. That's the building they occupied Monday night. That student waved a Palestinian flag. But then around 9:30 p.m. last night, a huge number of NYPD officers in riot gear charged the campus.

(SOUNDBITE OF STUDENTS SCREAMING)

MANN: And the student crowd fell back. They were clearly frightened. The NYPD used a massive armored vehicle to push a bridge into a window of Hamilton Hall. Officers then streamed over that bridge into a window, quickly retaking the building.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow, what a scene. How did students react to all this?

MANN: Yeah, it was shock and dismay. I spoke to one student who was stunned by the overwhelming force. She wouldn't give her name because she fears reprisal by Columbia University.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Myself and many other students have just felt horror seeing the swiftness with which the NYPD came and deployed themselves onto our campus.

MANN: And many of these students now face suspension and expulsion, some likely also facing criminal penalties.

MARTÍNEZ: So did Columbia University offer any explanation as to why they called in the NYPD to end this protest?

MANN: Yeah, at a press conference yesterday, Columbia spokesman Ben Chang said protesters were frightening other students.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CHANG: Disruptions on campus have created a threatening environment for many, including our Jewish students and faculty.

CHANG: Disruptions on campus have created a threatening environment for many, including our Jewish students and faculty.

MANN: And New York City Mayor Eric Adams also condemned the student protests yesterday, calling them a violent spectacle. Campus officials say they want the NYPD to now remain on campus to maintain security.

MARTÍNEZ: Last night, New York police also made arrests outside a student encampment at the City College of New York. What happened there?

MANN: Yeah, less than a mile away from Columbia University, another huge NYPD force swept in to round up student protesters. Here's what that sounded like.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: If you do not accompany the arresting officer voluntarily to the prisoner transport vehicle or resist arrest, you may be charged for additional crime.

MANN: And, A, NPR's Jasmine Garsd and Quil Lawrence watched there as police clashed with protesters and used pepper spray, large number of students again hauled away.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow, so a lot happening. Any sense of what people are saying about this show of force by the NYPD?

MANN: You know, many politicians in New York City, including bipartisan members of Congress, have condemned these protests, describing them as unlawful and antisemitic. That's a charge many students reject. There's also been a lot of community support for these encampments. NPR spoke last night with Leena Widdi, who watched this police action. She's a graduate of City College.

LEENA WIDDI: These students are putting their lives at risk. They're putting their jobs, their diplomas at risk 'cause they know that they're fighting for something bigger, which is the right to life for Palestinians.

MANN: This huge police action mirrors hundreds of other student arrests around the country, A, as Israel's war against Hamas and Gaza continues. In Oregon, Portland State University closed its campus yesterday after protesters took over a library building. At UCLA in Los Angeles police in riot gear arrived on campus early this morning because of clashes overnight between rival protest groups. And one other very different development yesterday - students at Brown University in Rhode Island agreed to end their protest. They took that step after school officials said they'll hold a vote next October on possible divestment from Israel.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Brian Mann. Brian, thank you.

MANN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back in Israel today. He's pressing for more aid to Palestinians in Gaza and a hostage deal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONY BLINKEN: We're determined to get a cease-fire that brings the hostages home and to get it now. And the only reason that that wouldn't be achieved is because of Hamas.

MARTÍNEZ: He's not the only one ramping up the pressure. Israel is still threatening to move on Rafah in southern Gaza, despite U.S. opposition. And Hamas has been releasing videos on the hostages, including two Americans. NPR's Michele Kelemen joins us now from Tel Aviv. Michele, how confident is Blinken that a new deal can be reached?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: He says it's achievable. Israel has put a strong proposal on the table, and it's up to Hamas, he says. But there are a lot of complicating factors, A. Some in the Israeli Cabinet are threatening to collapse the government if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to a long cease-fire with Hamas. Hamas, as you said, has been stepping up the pressure with those hostage videos. Two Americans were shown in those videos last week, including Keith Siegel. His brother Lee described the video as a window of hope. He spoke to us in Hostage Square this week.

LEE SIEGEL: It was an opportunity to see, hear and feel him. He broke down during that. And for me, actually, that was a sign of this is not some robot up there, reading something off. Maybe he was forced to say some things, but he wasn't forced to break down.

KELEMEN: Lee says that the U.S. government is making this a priority, but the hostage families are really critical of those in Netanyahu's government who don't want to make this deal, and Blinken met up with some of them who are gathered outside his hotel today.

MARTÍNEZ: Another big diplomatic story is the humanitarian aid to Gaza. What's Blinken saying about that?

KELEMEN: So Blinken went to Jordan yesterday, and he touted these new aid routes that are starting to go from Jordan into a crossing into northern Gaza directly. He also says that a pier the U.S. is building could be up and running in the next week. So he thinks things are moving in the right direction, though, remember, we're almost seven months into this war, and there's also growing pressure from inside the U.S. government to come to a determination that Israel is not letting enough aid in and is not complying with international humanitarian law as required to receive U.S. funding. Israel is pushing back on that. Blinken says there's been progress on aid, but just not enough yet.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So now let's turn to what's happening in Gaza. There are over a million Palestinians sheltering in Rafah, and they're worried about an Israeli ground incursion. Is Blinken bringing a message to Israel on that?

KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, it's another big reason why he and the Egyptians are pushing for this cease-fire and hostage deal now. Netanyahu has been vowing to deal with the Hamas battalions in Rafah with or without the hostage deal. The U.N. secretary-general says a military assault on Rafah would be, in his words, an unbearable escalation. President Biden and Secretary Blinken and many others have been pressing the Israelis for weeks now to come up with a real plan to protect civilians, but Palestinians say they just have nowhere else to go, and as everyone talks about this, Israel does continue to strike homes in Rafah. Each day, we learn about families killed in air strikes, even as these preparations for a ground incursion continue.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Michele Kelemen in Tel Aviv. Michele, thank you.

KELEMEN: Thank you, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Florida's new abortion law takes effect today. It's the one the state Supreme Court upheld last month. It prohibits abortions after six weeks, except in rare circumstances. And it's going to shape the reproductive rights debate in Florida ahead of the November election. That's when voters will decide whether to restore abortion access deeper into pregnancy. Stephanie Colombini with member station WUSF joins us now from Tampa. Stephanie, Florida had been one of the last states in the South to allow for abortions after a few weeks. How have providers and abortion rights advocates been preparing for this day?

STEPHANIE COLOMBINI, BYLINE: Well, a lot of health centers that provide abortions have increased staff and extended their hours to get in as many patients who are approaching six weeks of pregnancy as they can. But it's tough. Florida also requires patients to come in twice for care, first for a consultation and then again for the procedure at least 24 hours later. I talked to Barbara Zdravecky. She runs Planned Parenthood centers in Southwest and Central Florida. She says a lot of people don't even realize they're pregnant by six weeks.

BARBARA ZDRAVECKY: So the emotional turmoil that's going to happen - the anger, the fear, the anxiety - is going to be great.

COLOMBINI: So some people will have to continue their pregnancies. Others will travel out of state for abortions, but they're going to have to go far because so many other Southern states also have bans. And residents in those places had relied on Florida for care until now. There are some independent groups known as abortion funds that help people travel to states with access, but, you know, that's complicated and expensive.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Opponents of abortion rights advocated for this ban. What had they been saying?

COLOMBINI: They say the ban, quote, "protects life." I talked with John Stemberger, president of Legal (ph) Counsel Action. It's a group that opposes abortion. And he says they've been working to help what are known as crisis pregnancy centers in Florida encourage people not to get abortions. These centers are often run by religious groups, but they also get state funding, and they advise people to consider parenting or adoption instead.

JOHN STEMBERGER: We really want to appeal to young mothers or even older mothers who are in what we would consider a crisis pregnancy to basically think differently about the issue.

COLOMBINI: But some crisis pregnancy centers have been known to spread misleading or inaccurate medical information. Then another priority for people who support abortion restrictions is to convince Floridians to vote against a proposal that could overturn the six-week ban, and that's going to appear on the November ballot.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, right. That's the other part of this big debate in Florida. Tell us about that ballot measure.

COLOMBINI: Sure. So it's known as Amendment 4, and it asks voters whether to allow abortion access until fetal viability, which that's usually around 24 weeks, or when a patient's health care provider determines it's necessary. Now, opponents say the proposal is extreme and say the wording will mislead voters. But the state Supreme Court ruled the language is clear. Megan Jeyifo runs the Chicago Abortion Fund, and she works with partners in Florida. She is excited about the initiative. But she does worry that people may focus their resources on getting that passed, and then forget the pregnant people affected by the ban now.

MEGAN JEYIFO: Because it will be won on the backs of those people, and people will give birth when they didn't want to.

COLOMBINI: And that's, you know, if it wins. Sixty percent of voters need to approve the amendment for it to pass, and that is a higher threshold than in some other states that have passed ballot measures on abortion access.

MARTÍNEZ: That is WUSF's Stephanie Colombini. Thank you very much.

COLOMBINI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.