Pro-Palestinian Protests Ramp Up on Campuses Across the US

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the war between Israel and Hamas rages on, so are clashes on college campuses.  

Protests at some schools, including Columbia in New York City, are reaching new heights this week. Many protests have resulted in violence and mass arrests. 

This latest escalation of violence and rhetoric comes amid an increase in antisemitism on college campuses and around the country. 

One day after President Biden signed a foreign bill delivering $26 billion dollars to Israel, more schools across the country are taking part in the protests. Thousands of students are walking out of class across the nation and setting up encampments on school property. Students, protesters and even some faculty, are calling on school leaders to divest from Israel. 

This afternoon at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., over one hundred pro-Palestinian protesters could be seen setting up tents and chanting. As of this afternoon, the protests remained peaceful. 

At other schools, violence and hate speech directed at Jewish students is causing alarm, especially among lawmakers. 

“The cherished traditions of this university are being overtaken right now by radical, extreme ideology, and it puts a target on the backs of Jewish students,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson (R- LA) when visiting Columbia University on Wednesday. “Today, Hamas issued an endorsement statement of the protesters on this campus. They call them the future leaders of America. It is detestable,” Johnson added. 

Most, if not all, lawmakers agree there’s a big difference between free speech and outright antisemitism. Senator Bob Casey wants to make that clear through legislation and hold schools accountable if they fail to provide a safe space. 

“Antisemitism should always be unacceptable,” said Senator Bob Casey (D- PA). 

Casey’s bill would require the U.S. Department of Education to consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws. If the bill passes, it could result in fines for schools that are found to have a “hostile environment” by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. 

“That’s the only way we’re going to have campuses that are free of racism, free of antisemitism and free of Islamophobia, as well as other horrific practices,” said Casey.