News Release

University Protests


Common Dreams reports: “Texas State Troopers in Riot Gear Crack Down on UT Students’ Gaza Protest.” Texas Governor Greg Abbott wrote: “These protesters belong in jail. Antisemitism will not be tolerated in Texas. Period.” Steven Monacelli of the Texas Observer responded: “I’ve seen no credible reporting of actual antisemitic incidents at the UT Austin protest. What I can tell you is that I’ve reported on numerous neo-Nazi events and Greg Abbott never once tried to put any of them in jail.”

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, which works in conjunction with the university chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, released a statement challenging the media depictions of the protests and demanding that their voice be heard against the “mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza” The Electronic Intifada livestream on Wednesday included Nora Barrows-Friedman’s summary of news from Gaza, an interview with a journalist in Gaza and a Columbia University visiting professor, Mohamed Abdou, author of Islam and Anarchism, who was smeared at the recent Congressional hearings.

CHIP GIBBONS,, @ChipGibbons89
Gibbons is policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent, national civil liberties organization dedicated to protecting the right of political expression. The group recently wrote a letter to Columbia President Minouche Shafik, stating: “Our organization traces its founding back to the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Two of our founders were jailed for their refusal to testify before HUAC. While the McCarthy-era had heroes who defended the First Amendment by defying the HUAC inquisition, there were also many cowards who conformed with HUAC’s dictates.

“It was impossible not to recall the legacy of HUAC during the April 17, 2024, hearing of the House of Representatives’ Education and the Workforce Committee. The committee clearly aimed to punish individuals for their exercise of First Amendment-speech and purge America’s universities of political perspectives the committee members disfavored. Disturbingly, this was presented as an inquiry into rising anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a deplorable form of bigotry responsible for some of history’s greatest crimes. Yet, the hearing was not rooted in good faith concern with anti-Semitism. It was a transparent attempt to target pro-Palestine speech.

“During the hearing, you were asked about the political views of specific professors and encouraged to take disciplinary action, including termination, against them. Such clear retaliation for First-Amendment protected speech would be prohibited at a state institution. Although Columbia University is a private institution not governed by the First Amendment, the role of state actors — in this case members of Congress — in instigating the action would raise serious First Amendment concerns. Even if the First Amendment could not be found to apply, it would still be a serious breach of norms of academic freedom.

“Such a flagrant attack on academic freedom requires a firm rebuttal. Yet, instead you appeared to appease the committee.

“During your testimony, you told the Committee no less than four times about how you reported a student event to the FBI. … The FBI has a long history of illegally surveilling and seeking to silence political speech. We would know, as our organization was subjected to illegal FBI surveillance and harassment. The FBI not only has a history of harassment of social movements, it has a particularly vicious history of targeting pro-Palestine speech. This makes your actions all the more dangerous.

“Finally, as you are aware, student protesters calling on the university to divest from companies complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights have been holding a peaceful protest. These students have been the subject of a massive onslaught of demonization, with local and national politicians, and even a foreign government, falsely equating their actions with terrorism and calling for state repression. On April 18, you invited the NYPD onto your private campus to arrest your own students engaged in nonviolent protest. The NYPD has a reputation for use of excessive force against peaceful protests, as evidenced by its conduct during the Occupy Wall Street and George Floyd protests. Given the purely peaceful nature of the encampment, it is a dramatic escalation to invite the NYPD to arrest the students.”

In response to a report about bus drivers refusing to transport protesters, UN whistleblower Craig Mokhiber wrote: “This is inspiring. Let us now appeal as well to all police & national guard troops to refuse to carry out unlawful orders to arrest or intimidate peaceful protesters exercising rights to free expression & assembly to protest #genocide in #Palestine. The whole world is watching.”