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Transcript: Mayor Adams Calls In For Live Interview On NPR's “Morning Edition”

May 2, 2024

Michel Martin: Good morning. We are seeing an increasingly intense law enforcement response to weeks of intense days on some campuses across the US.   

Hundreds of law enforcement officers moved into the campus of the University of California Los Angeles this morning to break up an encampment of anti-war protesters. In New York City last night, police cleared some 30 protesters from the Fordham University campus in Manhattan. Earlier this week, officers arrested hundreds of people taking part in Gaza solidarity demonstrations at Columbia University. They moved against protesters outside City College of New York, also in Manhattan.   

New York City Mayor Eric Adams says outside groups had infiltrated the demonstrations and were threatening to turn them violent. How does he know? What does he think about the role city police are playing in these on-campus demonstrations? Let's ask him. He's with us now. Good morning, mayor.   

Mayor Eric Adams: Good morning. Thank you for having me on.   

Martin: Thank you for coming. Earlier this week, you said that, quote, “Outside agitators had co-opted the student protests at Columbia.” How did you know? Did you have a plainclothes presence? Did you have  informants?  

Mayor Adams: It first started with, I just had just a gut reaction based on my years in law enforcement. I asked the intelligence division of the Police Department to look into it, do an analysis. Do we see film of some familiar faces and people around the protest?   

They came back, substantiated on the Columbia grounds and on other grounds, that there were those who were professionals who participated in training, participated in some of the activities.   

Just this morning, what was given to me by my team was a preliminary review of the numbers. This is just a beginning process of analyzing. It appears as though over 40 percent of those who participated in Columbia and CUNY were not from the school and they were outsiders.  

Martin: Now that you've had some time to process these arrests, you think it's about 40 percent. That says 60 percent are students. Let me ask you about this. In some cities, local authorities have declined to let municipal officers get involved in these on-campus demonstrations, even if they were asked to do so.   

At what point, and I assume that this is with the agreement of the police commissioner, at what point did you decide that this was warranted? I do want to mention here that some of these arrests happened before people took over that building and barricaded themselves inside. What was the line for you?  

Mayor Adams: If at any time we stepped on college grounds, it was with the permission and authorization of the leadership. We were very clear, we would have moved sooner on many occasions. We were clear that we will only do it if the schools call us to do so.   

Martin: I know that's my point because some of the schools, some authorities, some in some places, the police have not done even if they were asked. I'm asking you, why did you feel it was warranted when you were asked?  

Mayor Adams: What really was a tipping point for me was when I learned that one of the outside agitator’s, professionals, husband was arrested for federal terrorism charges.   

I knew I could not sit back and state that I'm going to allow this to continue to escalate. That is why I made that determination on the Columbia University when the school sent us a letter to reinforce their observations that there were outside individuals influencing the protests.  

Martin: I'm going to guess that you have constituents on all sides of this. Some of the protesters are probably your constituents. Some of the people who think the protests have gone too far are probably your constituents. I'll say also, some of the police who, as they say, they also want to go home at night, too. What is your priority here?   

Mayor Adams: Public safety. I said it over and over again. It's the prerequisite to our prosperity, public safety and justice. Using the years of police experience, the years of protesting. I was a protester and I protested and marched in the Black Lives Matter march. I marched for hospitals that were closing.  

I have a history of protesting with some of the biggest protesters in the city from Daughtry to Sharpton to Jesse Jackson. It's that combination of saying this is a democracy. We have a right to protest the right, but we don't have a right to destroy property and harm individuals.  

Martin: That is Eric Adams. He is the mayor of New York City. Mr. Mayor, thank you so much for speaking with us.   

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Take care.  


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