Pro-Palestinian Protests Simmer in Campus Standoffs Amid Growing Fears of Violence

President Joe Biden calls for calm while House Republicans vow to scrutinize funding for universities that ‘aren’t stepping up’ to protect Jewish students.

Dozens of universities across more than 30 states remain embroiled in confrontations between pro-Palestinian protesters and police on May 3 with officials coast-to-coast calling for calm and raising alarm about the growing presence on campuses of “outside agitators” and counter-demonstrators promoting violence.

Skirmishing between protesters, often within makeshift encampments on campus quads, and organized, tactical counter-demonstrators raged for hours at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) on May 1.

Late on May 2, Portland police reported a man in a car spraying “some kind of pepper spray” scattered protesters at Portland State University in Oregon, where 30 were arrested for trespassing for failing to disperse.

Pro-Palestinian groups demanding an end to the war in Gaza and divestment from Israel have embroiled at least 50 universities and colleges across more than 30 states in the largest groundswell of campus unrest since the 1980s anti-apartheid and 1960/70s Vietnam War protests.

As of May 3—the Friday before the first weekend in May—more than 2,200 people have been arrested on university and college campuses in at least 22 states since the April 18 arrests of 108 Columbia University students in New York City on their Morningside campus in Manhattan.

New York City remains a hotbed of dissent with the New York Police Department (NYPD) arresting nearly 60 at New York University (NYU) and The New School late on May 2 and early on May 3.

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At least 40 were arrested at The New School when police were called to disperse “illegal encampments” inside its university center building and residence hall.

At least a dozen were jailed early on May 3 at NYU also because protesters had erected tents and were occupying the lobby of a residence hall.

“Most of those there—about 30—chose to leave, and were permitted to do so; about a dozen who were unwilling to leave were arrested,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman said in a May 3 statement.

“The process took about 20 minutes and involved minimal disruption and minimal confrontation.”

Mr. Beckman told reporters that it was “disturbing” to “hear the complete anti-Israel hatred live right here” in the lobby of an NYU residence hall.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry told reporters that the potential for violence is being aggravated “at other campuses in New York City and around the country” by “the presence and behavior of hundreds of individuals not affiliated with NYU drawn to the encampment, including acts of vandalism.”

Students at the University of California Irvine protest against the Israel/Gaza conflict in Irvine, Calif., on May 2, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Students at the University of California Irvine protest against the Israel/Gaza conflict in Irvine, Calif., on May 2, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Biden, House GOP Respond

President Joe Biden on May 2 issued his first direct comments regarding the protests since April 22, telling reporters in the White House’s Roosevelt Room that free speech rights end when there is violence and vandalism.

“We’ve all seen images, and they put to the test two fundamental American principles,” the president said.

“The first is the right to free speech and for people to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard. The second is the rule of law. Both must be upheld.”

It marked the first time President Biden directly addressed the issue since his brief comments to reporters on April 22, before the escalation of suspensions and arrests at several campuses.

At the time, he said he condemned both anti-Semitic actions and those who didn’t understand the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.

He repeated his support for Israel and dismissed calls for the National Guard to intervene.

Early May 3, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona dispatched a letter to college and university presidents condemning “abhorrent” incidents of anti-Semitism on campus.

“As the 2023-24 school year comes to a close, I remain incredibly concerned by the reports of anti-Semitic hate directed at students on some campuses,” he said, noting there has been a “sharp rise in reports of anti-Semitism targeting Jewish students on some college campuses.”

The department is “eager to provide further resources, training, technical assistance” in ensuring protests stay peaceful, Mr. Cardona said, noting since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the department has opened 141 investigations into violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

The secretary is scheduled to meet with Jewish leaders on May 3 regarding their demand to strip federal funding from universities that allow encampments.

Throughout the week Congressional House Republicans have even called on the Biden administration to step up in protecting Jewish students on college campuses.

“Anti-Semitism is a virus. Because the administration and university presidents aren’t stepping in, we’re seeing it spread,” House Speaker Rep, Mike Johnson (R-La.) said on May 2.

“We have to act and House Republicans will speak to this fateful moment with moral clarity.”

House Republican Conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) told reporters that “moral leadership … is sorely lacking among these university presidents” and vowed their actions—or lack of—will be factored when funding decisions are made in budget deliberations through spring and summer.

That scrutiny is already surfacing in budget deliberations.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) asked Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to provide her panel with a list of grants to universities and colleges.

“You will see Congress respond,” Mr. Johnson said. “You’re going to see funding begin to dry up, and you’re going to see every level of accountability we can muster.”

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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