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Morning Spew

The ‘Outside Agitator’ Narrative Is Getting Pretty Messy

These tidbits raise more questions than they answer.

NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban holds up a bike lock during a press conference while sitting next to Mayor Eric Adams.

NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban holds up a bike lock during Wednesday morning’s press conference (Michael Appleton / Mayor’s Office)

Over the past 24 hours, Mayor Eric Adams has repeatedly told New Yorkers that the NYPD had to raid the campuses of Columbia University and the City College of New York and arrest hundreds of people because "outside agitators" had been corrupting the minds of the students.

"There is a movement to radicalize young people. And I'm not going to wait until it's done and all of a sudden acknowledge the existence of it," Adams told reporters on Wednesday morning—a message that he hammered again and again in repeated media appearances on Thursday morning.

Yet more than 24 hours after the NYPD arrested 282 people at both schools—173 at CCNY and 109 at Columbia—Adams struggled to provide any concrete information on how many of those people detained were "outside agitators," what they were being charged with, or even what the term "outside agitator" even means in this context

Shortly after 9 a.m. on Thursday, the NYPD tossed a crumb to CNN:

But these tidbits raise more questions than they answer. If, as the CNN reporter notes, "affiliated doesn't mean current OR full time student," what does it mean? 

If "affiliated" does mean current or full-time student, it raises the question of how many of these arrests happened on campus. During both of Tuesday night's raids, the schools and the police restricted access to the campuses, and many arrests were made off-campus, especially in the case of CCNY, which saw more than 70 arrests than Columbia. 

More questions: How many of these arrestees who weren't "affiliated" were students at other colleges or universities? How many were alumni—or in the case of CCNY, students at other CUNY campuses? Since both Columbia and the NYPD cited the occupation of Hamilton Hall as a central justification for the raid there, how many of those people arrested inside the building were "affiliated"? (The head of the NYPD's press shop told Hell Gate on Wednesday that "outside agitators" were "absolutely" arrested inside Hamilton Hall, but declined to provide any more details.) And does any of this actually matter? Are New Yorkers who participate in protests that happen in and around colleges "outside agitators"?

Meanwhile, preliminary reports suggest that the lion's share of those arrested are simply being released with a desk appearance ticket on minor charges. A source familiar with the matter says that only 50 or so people have actually been arraigned so far, and that a significant number of students arrested have now been held for more than 24 hours without seeing a lawyer—a violation of case law, though a law that the NYPD violates with some frequency. The source familiar with the matter added that City College students can't be processed without the participation of campus police, who are unfamiliar with the process and moving slowly, resulting in many students being locked up without counsel beyond the legal limit.

This is a police department that just went on national television and tried to convince the world that a common bike lock is evidence of nefarious forces manipulating supple young minds. The public deserves a full accounting of what actually happened, not just the drip-drip of information leaked to national media.

Some links to start your day, devoid of individual agency and as always under the sway of nefarious outside agitators: 

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