Police are investigating an alleged chemical attack at a pro-Palestinian demonstration on the Columbia University campus last week, Gothamist reported Tuesday. Several protesters, who were rallying against U.S. support for Israel’s attacks on Gaza, reported to Columbia’s Department of Public Safety and the New York Police Department on Jan. 19 that they had been sprayed with what they believed to be a chemical known as skunk. The controversial substance is used by the Israel Defence Forces, as well as other militaries and law enforcement agencies, and has a putrid smell that is nearly impossible to wash off.
Protesters reported nausea and irritation to the eyes as a result of exposure to the liquid, according to Gothamist, and at least four students went to the hospital or urgent care following the attack.
The NYPD is leading the investigation into “what appear to have been serious crimes, possibly hate crimes,” Columbia interim provost Dennis Mitchell said in a statement. Federal authorities are also involved in the investigation.
Mitchell noted that the alleged perpetrators are currently banned from campus, and he encouraged anyone with additional information on the event to provide it to the Department of Public Safety and the NYPD.