Palestinian versus Israeli protests heighten chaos on college campuses

Fights break out at dueling pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel protests at UCLA – NBC Los Angeles
PRO PALESTINIAN PROTESTS overwhelm UCLA campus. (NBC Los Angeles)

Kat Piantka | News Editor

May 16, 2024

In the past month, the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel has begun to affect life at university campuses throughout the United States and the world. Prestigious American universities such as Colombia, NYU, UCLA, USC, and many others are being tasked with regulating once peaceful Pro-Palestinian protests which aim to end U.S., university financial, and military support for Israel’s war effort in Gaza and to promote a cease-fire to the Israel-Hamas war.

According to PBS News, these protests are violating the First Amendment’s right of freedom to assemble with unpeaceful and violent protests that have resulted in the destruction and vandalism of campus property, occupation of campus property without permission, violent and physical fights, and a decrease in campus safety for students, especially Jewish students as they are prohibited from specific areas due to these widespread movements. Shockingly, most of these protesters are paid, not students at these universities.

The actions of these trespassers have only impacted the actual attendants of these universities. For instance, Colombia and USC canceled their huge graduation commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2024. This same class of students could also not attend their high school graduation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; now, they will be robbed again of another milestone. News of these cancellations is very controversial and receiving widespread upheaval and frustration from parents, students, and sympathizers nationwide.

CBS News reports that the protests resulted in UCLA canceling classes on May 1, and, as of May 6, classes shifted to online online through May 10th. Additionally, they promoted a new Officer of Campus Safety due to the demonstrations, which sparked frustration in how security handled the situation. For instance, their late response, use of tear gas, and firing of rubber bullets into the crowd formulated more tension.

Police use tear gas to break up protestors at college campuses. (Reuters)

But are the Pro-Palestine protesters helping their cause by encouraging support and sympathy, or have their efforts backfired? President of the United States, Joe Biden, replies to the college protests at a White House press conference by saying that ‘“there’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos”’ for these are acts of violence that are “lawlessness, plain and simple and those that do it should be prosecuted.” To the disappointment of the Pro-Palestinian protestors, President Biden argues that it will not sway his decision to support Israel in the Gaza war efforts or stop the U.S. from providing financial and military aid. 

Senior Sophie Rideout, a future UCLA attendee, reflects on the college protests affecting her future university. However, the current state of the school is not affecting her commitment decision as she believes “the summer will provide an opportunity for things to calm down before [she] begins attending in the fall.” She additionally believes UCLA is acting appropriately to the situation at hand if violence and the safety of the students are being threatened. Still, peaceful protestors should not be arrested or prohibited from proceeding safely. But if “protestors are blocking buildings…administration has the right to remove them [accordingly].” From her past visits to UCLA, she has noticed the presence of protestors on campus as they “stood up with megaphones and began shouting at the administrators [during a student speech for Bruin Day],” which was unnecessary, disrespectful, and is an example of when protests can be out of hand. 

Similarly, an anonymous source states their personal understanding of the Pro-Palestinian protests at UCLA for the protestors “want UCLA to divest from companies that are supporting the war.” However, some schools do not have the authority or may never vote to divest from Israel. The source also notes that when “religion gets involved,” things tend to get more complicated as both sides pose an argument in this ongoing war.

Whether or not you are educated in the current war between Hamas and Israel, many can agree on the unfairness and lack of compliance with our First Amendment’s right to peaceful assembly as these once “peaceful” protests shift towards acts of violence, vandalism, trespassing, and continued disruption impacting students at universities across the globe.

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