Biden supports peaceful protest and condemns ‘chaos’ on Gaza campus

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden responded Thursday to weeks of protests on college campuses, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza with a brief statement that the right to protest should be protected but “not the right to cause chaos.”

“We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or suppress dissent,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room at the White House. “In fact, peaceful protests are in the best tradition of how Americans respond to the problems that arise from them. But we are not a lawless country either.”

Biden has said the student-led protests have not caused him to reconsider Middle East policy and he does not believe the National Guard should be authorized to respond to protests across the country.

He criticized the protests that led to the cancellation of classes.

“Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder or deny the rights of others so that students can complete a semester or complete their college education,” Biden said. “Order must prevail.”

To protest the Israel-Hamas war, students set up encampments on approximately 30 college campuses across the country, including Tulane University in Louisiana and University of Wisconsin-Madison. Some became aggressive.

According to reports, fights broke out at the University of California, Los Angeles on Tuesday evening when counter-protesters tried to dismantle an encampment set up by protesters on the university’s campus. NPR.

“Violent protest is not protected,” Biden said. “It is a peaceful protest.”

Protesting students called for a ceasefire and for their institutions to divest from companies linked to Israel, including companies producing weapons used in the war.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, more than 34,000 Palestinians have died in nearly seven months of war.

Universities called in police to search the encampments, which led to the arrests of approximately 1,300 people. according to The Guardian..

Calls from Congress

Lawmakers also called on higher education institutions to crack down on protests and raised concerns about anti-Semitism.

House on Wednesday passed a bipartisan bill this would require the Department of Education to utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.

Republicans and some Democratic supporters of the bill argued that the protests were a form of anti-Semitism.

Critics of the bill say it could limit freedom of speech in educational institutions.

Nationwide protests began on April 17 at Columbia University in New York after university president Minouche Shafik he testified earlier House Education and Workforce Committee on anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Students set up tents to set up a “Gaza Solidarity camp.” A day later, Shafik authorized the New York Police Department to search the area. NYPD officers arrested 108 students – the largest mass arrest on Columbia’s campus since 1968 according to the independent student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator.

After this action, the students returned and stayed for two weeks until Tuesday, when hundreds of NYPD officers entered the Columbia campus and cleared the encampments and Hamilton Hall, where the students were living, according to the Columbia Spectator.

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