Biden backs peaceful protest, denounces ‘chaos’ on campus over Gaza • Oregon Capital Chronicle

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 must be protected but “not the right to cause chaos.”

“We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or stifle dissent,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. “In fact, peaceful protest is in the best tradition of how Americans respond to resulting issues. But we are not a lawless country either.”

Biden said the student-led protests have not caused him to reconsider policy in the Middle East and that he did not think the National Guard should be authorized in response to protests across the country.

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

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

Students have set up camps to protest the war between Israel and Hamas on about 30 college campuses across the country, including 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 when counter-protesters attempted to dismantle an encampment set up by demonstrators on the university’s campus.

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

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

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in nearly seven months of war, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Universities have called in police to search the encampments, leading to around 1,300 arrests, according to The Guardian.

Calls from Congress

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

The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bipartisan bill that would require the Department of Education to adopt 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 undermine freedom of expression in educational institutions.

Nationwide protests began April 17 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 Encampment’. A day later, Shafik gave New York police permission 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 cleanup, the students returned and remained there for two weeks until Tuesday, when hundreds of NYPD officers entered Columbia’s campus and cleared the encampments and Hamilton Hall that students occupied, according to the Columbia Spectator.