Brooklyn man arrested for burning an Israeli flag near Columbia University, police say

Protesters hold Israeli flag near Columbia University
Israeli demonstrators and pro-Palestine outside of Columbia University
Photo by Dean Moses

A Brooklyn man was arrested on Wednesday for allegedly setting an Israeli flag on fire near Columbia University amid the two-week pro-Palestine protests, among other charges. 

Law enforcement officials said that on Saturday, April 20, at approximately 9:55 p.m. a 22-year-old man was walking in the vicinity of Amsterdam Avenue and West 116th Street in Morningside Heights, displaying an Israeli flag. An unknown male individual then aggressively approached the victim, snatched the flag from him and then ran into a crowd of people, police said. 

The victim then followed the suspect, who at this point was hard to find in the raucous mob. Meanwhile, another perp threw a rock at the victim while he was running, striking him in the face, police reported.

As the assault occurred, someone else in the melee got a hold of the victim’s flag and set it on fire, police said. The victim sustained minor injuries from the assault, but refused medical attention. 

One of the perpetrators involved in the hate crime, 40-year-old James Carlson of 14th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was arrested Wednesday at the scene of the crime near Columbia University, police said, and is being charged with arson, criminal mischief and criminal possession of stolen property. 

Police were not able to confirm if Carlson was the suspect who set the victim’s flag ablaze, but all three suspects will likely be charged with arson, law enforcement sources said.  

No other arrests have been made yet, and two other suspects remain at large. The incident is being investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force. 

Anyone with information regarding this incident can call Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS (for Spanish, dial 888-57-PISTA). You can also submit tips online at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, or on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) @NYPDTips. All calls and messages are kept confidential.

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