Biden supports peaceful protest, denounces 'chaos' on campus over Gaza • New Hampshire Bulletin

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 stifle dissent,” Biden said in the Roosevelt Room of the White House. “In fact, peaceful protest is in the best tradition of Americans' response to consequential problems. But we’re not a lawless country either.”

Biden said the student-led protests have not made him rethink his policies in the Middle East and he does not believe the National Guard should be allowed in response to protests across the country.

He criticized the protests that led to course cancellations.

“Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to riots or the denial of the rights of others so that students can complete a semester or their college education,” Biden said. “There must be order.”

Students have set up camps to protest the Israel-Hamas war at about 30 college campuses across the country, including at Tulane University in Louisiana and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Some have become violent.

According to NPR, fighting broke out at UCLA on Tuesday evening as counter-protesters tried to break up a camp set up by demonstrators on the university's campus.

“Violent protest is not protected,” Biden said. “Peaceful protest is.”

Student protesters called for a ceasefire and called on their institutions to divest from companies linked to Israel, including those that produce weapons used in the war.

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

According to The Guardian, universities have called police to clear the camps, resulting in about 1,300 arrests.

Calls from Congress

Lawmakers have also called on colleges to quell the protests and raised concerns about anti-Semitism.

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday that would require the Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of anti-Semitism.

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

Critics of the bill say it could restrict freedom of expression in educational institutions.

On April 17, nationwide protests began at Columbia University in New York after the university's president, Minouche Shafik, testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee about anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Students pitched 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 Columbia Spectator.

After that eviction, students returned and stayed for two weeks until Tuesday, according to the Columbia Spectator, when hundreds of NYPD officers entered Columbia's campus and cleared the encampments and Hamilton Hall where students were located.

Anna Harden

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