‘There’s a right to protest, not to cause chaos’: Biden slams campus anti-Israel demonstrators, threats to Jewish students

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US President Joe Biden speaks in the White House on May 2, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)
US President Joe Biden speaks in the White House on May 2, 2024. (Screen capture/YouTube)

US President Joe Biden condemns the anti-Israel protests that have been wreaking havoc on college campuses across the country.

“There’s a right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos,” Biden says in his first prepared remarks on the topic, which he gives from the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

“Destroying property is not a peaceful protest — it’s against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations — none of this is a peaceful protest,” he asserts, referring to the range of actions taken by anti-Israel protesters at Columbia University, the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles, and other schools.

“Threatening people, intimidating people, instilling fear in people is not peaceful protest — it’s against the law,” Biden continues.

“There should be no place on any campus — no place in America — for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students,” he says before subsequently condemning all forms of discrimination.

“I understand people have strong feelings and deep convictions. In America, we respect the right and protect the right for them to express that, but it doesn’t mean anything goes,” Biden clarifies. “It needs to be done without violence, without destruction, without hate and within the law.”

“Make no mistake, as president I will always defend free speech, but I will always be just as strong in standing up for the rule of law,” he asserts.

“We’ve all seen images, and they put to the test two fundamental American principles: The first is the right to free speech — for people to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard. The second is the rule of law. Both must be upheld. We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent. The American people are heard.”

“In fact, peaceful protest is the best tradition of how Americans respond to consequential issues. But neither are we a lawless country. We are a civil society, and order must prevail,” he insists.

“Throughout our history, we’ve often faced moments like this because we are a big, diverse, free-thinking and freedom-loving nation,” the US president continues. “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.”

“So let me be clear, violent protest is not protected, peaceful protest is,” Biden adds.

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