Who sprayed an unknown chemical at a recent pro-Palestine rally on the grounds of Columbia University? Police are still working to figure it out.
Participants of a Jan. 19 rally on the Columbia campus began noticing a horrid stench in the air at around 1 p.m. While no 911 calls were immediately made at the location, over the course of the coming days, six women noticed something wrong — namely a smell they couldn’t seem to get rid of.
“We have a total of six people that came forward and may complain that they reported possible exposure to a stink bomb or some other type of gas,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said. “Students that participated in the protest went to Columbia University security to report the incident.”
Police say the six women, who range in age from 19- to 24-years-old, began to feel uncomfortable between that Friday and Sunday.
“Several described going home, smelling something on their clothes,” Chief Kenny said. “They tried to wash their clothes, the smell got worse, they couldn’t get rid of the smell.”
While no serious injuries were reported, the incident caused outrage from staff and students alike — and wild accusations.
“As a professor, I’m horrified & disgusted that students @columbia calling for a ceasefire were attacked ON CAMPUS with illegal weapons by students who are former Israeli soldiers. The administration should take swift action to protect the victims,” Sylvia Chan-Malik wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. (The NYPD could not confirm her accusation of the attackers being soldiers.)
Police say the students hit with the mysterious spray provided the NYPD with the contaminated clothes; the forensic lab is currently testing them to determine the chemical’s identity.
Law enforcement agents did obtain video of men spraying a substance on a light pole just prior to the protest getting underway, police reported. The light pole has also been tested and examined for the chemical.
Authorities report that the Hate Crimes Task Force was consulted, but as of Tuesday, the incident was not considered a hate crime.
No arrests have been made in the ongoing investigation. Anyone with information regarding the 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.