Friday, June 21, 2024

Biden urges order as arrests and chaos rise at pro-Palestinian college protests nationwide

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Senior National
Correspondent

President Joe Biden, in his first remarks since April 22, addressed the escalating pro-Palestinian demonstrations on American college campuses in a strongly worded speech where he noted that there’s a delicate balance between dissent and disorder in a democratic society.

“Dissent is essential for democracy,” Biden asserted, “but dissent must never lead to disorder.”

Biden’s comments come amid protests nationwide, with more than 1,900 arrests reported. The long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which has recently intensified due to violence in the occupied territories, has fueled the demonstrations.

 

The long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which has recently intensified due to violence in the occupied territories, has fueled the demonstrations
(Photo via NNPA)

The spark for the latest round of conflict was an attack by Hamas, Gaza’s militant government, on Israel on October 7, resulting in nearly 1,200 deaths, marking the most significant single killing of Jews since the Holocaust. According to data from the Hamas-run Health Ministry, in retaliation, Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, declared war on Hamas, sparking an invasion that has claimed over 34,000 Palestinian lives.

International condemnation has been swift, with Biden himself criticizing Israel’s retaliation as indiscriminate and responsible for a heavy civilian death toll.

During his address at the White House, Biden emphasized the importance of upholding the right to free speech and the rule of law. “We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent,” he declared. “But neither are we a lawless country. We are a civil society, and order must prevail.”

The president stressed that while peaceful protest is protected, violence and destruction are not. “Destroying property is not a peaceful protest,” he asserted. “It’s against the law. I understand people have strong feelings and deep convictions. In America, we respect the right and protect the right for them to express that.

But it doesn’t mean anything goes. It needs to be done without violence, without destruction, without hate, and within the law.”

Biden also condemned any form of hate speech or violence, including antisemitism, Islamophobia, or discrimination against Arab Americans or Palestinian Americans. “There should be no place on any campus, no place in America for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students,” he affirmed. “It’s simply wrong. There is no place for racism in America. It’s all wrong. It’s un-American.”

Biden remained firm in responding to questions about potential policy shifts or the deployment of the National Guard considering the protests. “No,” he stated unequivocally to both inquiries.

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