Republican Senators Demand Biden Use National Guard to Suppress Columbia Protests

Self-avowed pro-First Amendment, anti-government repression Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) are demanding President Joe Biden unleash the full force of the state’s National Guard to suppress pro-Palestinian student protests at Columbia University.

“If [New York City Mayor] Eric Adams won’t send the NYPD and [New York Governor] Kathy Hochul won’t send the National Guard, Joe Biden has a duty to take charge and break up these mobs,” Cotton wrote Monday on X, formerly Twitter, describing the protests as “nascent pogroms” against Jews — invoking the term used to describe historic massacres against Jewish communities. There have been no reports of targeted antisemitic violence stemming from the Columbia solidarity protest, although there have been some reports of harassment by protesters unaffiliated with the core group of students.

“Eisenhower sent the 101st to Little Rock. It’s time for Biden to call out the National Guard at our universities to protect Jewish Americans,” Hawley wrote in his own post on X.

Cotton has a prolific history of calling for the use of state force — or even outright violence — to quell protests he disagrees with. In 2020, during the height of national protests over the murder of George Floyd, Cotton penned an op-ed in The New York Times calling for the use of military force against protesters and wrote on X that there should be “no quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters,” a reference to the war crime of summarily executing surrendered combatants. Earlier this month, Cotton wrote that individuals affected by pro-Palestinian protesters blocking roads and traffic should “take matters into your own hands to get them out of the way.” Cotton quickly edited the post to claim he was not advocating for protesters to be run over.

Hawley was infamously photographed saluting protesters outside of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, hours before the riot that nearly usurped the Electoral College certification of Biden’s election. Earlier this month, Cotton signed onto an amicus curiae supporting a Supreme Court challenge to the Justice Department’s ability to charge Jan. 6 defendants with obstruction.

Biden himself has not responded to the demands to invoke the National Guard against student protesters — a demand that recalls the 1970 massacre of Kent State students protesting the Vietnam War by members of the Ohio National Guard.

“I condemn the antisemitic protests that’s why I’ve set a program to deal with that,” Biden said on Monday. “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,” he added.

More than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza strip. The outsized death toll, which is largely comprised of civilians and noncombatants, is the result of indiscriminate bombing of the besieged territory, and severe restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid to the region. As the Biden administration prepares to approve a $21 billion aid package to Israel — including billions in military assistance — the death toll continues to climb.

On Thursday, following testimony before Congress, Columbia University President Nemat Shafik authorized the New York Police Department to enter the university grounds and clear an encampment of protesters occupying a central lawn of the campus. Dozens of protesters, many of them students, were arrested and indefinitely suspended. Shafik’s weaponization of the NYPD against students spurred the recreation of the encampment, a faculty walk-out in support of the students, and a slew of similar protests at other universities around the country.

Despite the outrage from students and faculty, Shafik’s use of police force against her students has done little to appease her Republican critics, with some lawmakers demanding her resignation. On Sunday Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), ​​chair of the House Republican Conference, issued a statement calling for Shafik to “immediately resign.”

“The Columbia Board must appoint a President who will protect Jewish students and enforce school policies,” she added.

On Monday Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, penned an open letter accusing the university of violating Title IX by failing to suppress the protests. “If you do not rectify this danger, then the Committee will not hesitate in holding you accountable,” Foxx wrote.

On Monday, Columbia announced that it would conduct classes virtually, citing concerns over the safety of Jewish students.

“Columbia students organizing in solidarity with Palestine – including Jewish students – have faced harassment, doxxing, and now arrest by the NYPD. These are the main threats to the safety of Jewish Columbia students,” Jonathan Ben-Menachem, a PhD student at Columbia, told CNN over the weekend. “On the other hand, student protesters have led interfaith joint prayers for several days now, and Passover Seder will be held at the Gaza Solidarity Encampment tomorrow … Saying that student protesters are a threat to Jewish students is a dangerous smear.”

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