Biden says "order must prevail" on college campuses amid protests

President Biden on Thursday said “order must prevail” on college campuses, as some of the pro-Palestinian protests have turned violent, insisting it’s his responsibility to protect the “rule of law” as much as freedom of expression. 

But Mr. Biden told reporters Thursday that “no” that the National Guard should not intervene on college campuses. He also said the protests do not change his position and policies toward the Hamas-Israel war. 

The president’s brief remarks come as pro-Palestinian protests have been held at college campuses nationwide, resulting in police breaking up encampments at some schools and arrests. Over 100 people were arrested on Wednesday night at the University of California, Los Angeles, after hundreds of protesters defied police orders to leave and about 24 hours after counter-protesters attacked the tent encampment on the campus.  The chaotic night at UCLA came after arrests in New York City at Columbia University and City College. Some institutions have canceled in-person commencement ceremonies due to the protests. 

“Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations — none of this is a peaceful protest,” the president said from the White House’s Roosevelt Room. “Threatening people, intimidating people, instilling fear in people is not a peaceful protest. It’s against the law. Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder or to denying the rights of others so students can finish the semester and their college education.” 

The president said “dissent is essential to democracy,” but that dissent must not turn into chaos and violence. 

“There’s the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,” he said. “People have the right to get an education, the right to get a degree, the right to walk across a campus safely without fear of being attacked. Let’s be clear about this as well — there should be no place on any campus, no place in America, for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students.” 

The White House has insisted it’s a small but vocal group of protesters who are responsible for any violence on campuses.

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