Protests continue as Biden calls for order

By AI HEPING in New York | | Updated: 2024-05-03 10:24
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A drone view shows demonstrators at a protest encampment in support of Palestinians, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, US, May 2, 2024. [Photo/Agencies] 

As pro-Palestinian protest encampments remain at dozens of US colleges and universities, and more than 2,000 protesters have been arrested, US President Joe Biden said Thursday that "order most prevail'', as "Americans have the right to protest but not the right to cause chaos''.

"There should be no place on any campus, no place in America, for antisemitism, or threats of violence against Jewish students," Biden said.

It marked the first time that Biden directly addressed the campus protests since his brief comments to reporters on April 22, before the escalation of suspensions and arrests at several campuses. At the time, he said he condemned both antisemitic actions and those who didn't understand the plight of Palestinians in Gaza.

Biden's remarks came as Republicans are portraying themselves as staunch supporters of Israel and as former president Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, said on the campaign trail Wednesday that what was unfolding on college campuses was a "shame and Biden should speak out because nobody knows where he is''.

"In moments like this, there are always those who rush in to score political points. But this isn't a moment for politics. It's a moment for clarity," Biden said.

Later Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to a reporter's question on the timing of Biden's remarks and whether he was feeling pressure to speak out after Trump's comments.

"It has nothing to do with anybody following anyone's lead," she told reporters on Air Force One. "The president, if anything, has been a leader on this."

Asked if the demonstrations had caused him to reassess American policy in the Middle East, he said "No." He also said that the National Guard should not intervene on campuses.

Pro-Palestinian encampment at Portland state university broken up by police. [Photo/Agencies]

Biden delivered his brief remarks from the White House before leaving for North Carolina and spoke hours after a pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was cleared by police in a pre-dawn raid.

On Tuesday night, a masked pro-Israeli group attacked a pro-Palestinian student camp before police were called to the campus.

Hundreds of protesters were arrested. Officers scuffled with some protesters who defied warnings to either leave or face arrest, NBC News reported.

By Thursday morning, most protesters had left after being told to move or face arrest.

Demonstrations are continuing at dozens of universities across the US. At least 2,000 arrests have been made over the last two weeks, according to The Associated Press.

While the demands among protesters vary at each university, the majority of demonstrations have called for colleges to divest from companies that support Israel and the war in Gaza.

About 200 people were arrested after law enforcement raided the encampment, said Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The majority, she said, were charged with misdemeanors such as unlawful assembly and released.

After a dayslong occupation by protesters at the Portland State University library, city officers cleared people from inside and outside of the building Thursday morning.

Most protesters left the library before the Portland Police Bureau could arrest those who remained behind barricades. Police said 12 people were arrested, including four students.

Portland police said they found tools, improvised weapons, ball bearings, paint balloons and improvised armor, but said it wasn't used against them, News Channel 21 in Oregon reported.

Activists opposed to Israel's role in the ongoing war in Gaza took over the library Monday night. They called for Portland State to cut ties from companies connected to Israel, among other demands.

Of 282 people arrested at both Columbia University and the City College of New York on Tuesday, 134 individuals were not affiliated with either school, according to a New York Police Department (NYPD) official who shared the breakdown with CNN. The remaining 148 individuals did have an affiliation with one of the two universities.

The NYPD said it was able to determine the data by cross-checking records with the universities.

It wasn't clear whether the arrested protesters with no connection to the school were outside agitators or if they played any part in organizing or intensifying the demonstration.

New York Mayor Eric Adams suggested that the takeover of Hamilton Hall at Columbia was "about a change in tactics", adding: "There is a movement to radicalize young people, and I'm not going to wait until it's done and all of a sudden acknowledge the existence of it."

Agencies contributed to this story.

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