EDITORIAL

Persecuted campus protesters are heroes

April 23, 2024. The reinstated Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University, fifth day. PHOTO: Abbad Diraneyya
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Three cheers for the Columbia University students who set up an encampment protesting the Gaza War, inspiring others across the U.S. and the world to do likewise. They are carrying on a grand tradition. Similar mobilizations against the Vietnam War and South African apartheid were critical to ending those scourges.

Not surprisingly, college administrations have refused to consider the reasonable demands that their institutions oppose the genocide in Gaza and divest from companies complicit with Israeli war crimes. Instead, many universities have sent riot police to dismantle encampments and detain protesters. Across the U.S. over 2,000 have been arrested for this free-speech activity. It’s an outrage!

Of course, this crackdown has been cheered by a regular bi-partisan chorus who parrot the tired old red-baiting hype about “outside agitators.” As if the community folks supporting the courageous students do not belong on the campuses that are built and maintained with their tax dollars!

And Biden takes the cake, declaring the protests illegal because the U.S. is “a nation of law and order.” Really? What about Uncle Sam’s role in funding Israel’s flagrant violation of international law? He lambasts protesters as antisemitic — an absurd charge. Many of the student organizers are Jewish and they are carrying on a cultural tradition of standing with the oppressed and against injustice.

Political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal recently sent a recorded speech to a rally in Harlem, praising the bravery of the students. He implored them, “Do not bow to those who want you to be silent.” History calls on all of us to stand with the unbowed students.

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