Biden insists “order must prevail” amid campus protests

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden defended the right to protest Thursday but insisted that “order must prevail” as college campuses across the country grapple with unrest over the war in Gaza.

“Democracy requires dissent,” he said at the White House. “But disagreement should never lead to disorder.”

There has been tension for several days Demonstrators refuse to remove campus encampments And administrators turn to the police They must be destroyed by forceleading to conflicts that attract the attention of politicians and the media.

What do you need to know about student protests?

Biden said he does not support calls to send in the National Guard. He added that the protests did not prompt him to reconsider his attitude toward the war. While the Democratic president occasionally criticized Israel’s behavior, he continued to arm Israel.

His comments, shortly before leaving the White House for a trip to North Carolina, came after days of silence about the protests. Republicans have tried to turn the scenes of unrest into a campaign gimmick, and Biden has said he rejects attempts to use the situation to “score political points.”

“This is not the moment for politics,” he said. “It’s a moment of clarity.”

Biden’s last public comment came on the protests A week agoWhen he condemned “antisemitic protests” and “people who don’t understand what’s happening to the Palestinians.”

The White House, flooded with questions from reporters, went a little further than the president. On Wednesday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was “monitoring the situation closely,” and she said some of the demonstrations crossed a line that separates free speech from illegal behavior.

“Forcible takeovers of the building, like what happened at Columbia University in New York, are not peaceful,” he said. “not that.”

Biden never protests. His career in elected office began when he was 28 years old as a county clerk, and he has always embraced the political importance of compromise over zeal.

In 1968, Biden was in law school at Syracuse University when college campuses erupted in anger over the Vietnam War.

“I’m not big on flak jackets and tie-dyed shirts,” he said years later. “You know, it’s not me.”

Despite Biden’s refusal to heed criticism from the White House and protesters’ demands to cut US support for Israel, Republicans blamed Democrats for the breakdown and used it as a backdrop for press conferences.

“We need the president of the United States to talk about this issue and say it’s wrong,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, said Tuesday. “What’s happening on college campuses right now is wrong.”

Johnson visited Columbia last week with other members of his caucus. House Republicans sparred with protesters as they spoke to reporters at George Washington University in Washington on Wednesday.

Former President Donald Trump, his party’s presumptive nominee, criticized Biden in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News.

“Biden has to do something,” he said. “Biden is supposed to be the voice of our country, and it’s certainly not much of a voice. It’s a voice that no one hears.

He repeated his criticisms Wednesday during a campaign event in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

“Radical extremists and far-left insurgents terrorize college campuses, as you may have noticed,” Trump said. “And Biden was nowhere to be seen. He didn’t say anything.”

Kate Berner, who served as deputy communications director for Biden’s campaign in 2020, said Republicans had already tried the same tactic during protests over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer four years ago.

“People rejected it,” he said. “They saw that it was just fear. They saw that it was not grounded in reality.

Aside from condemning anti-Semitism, the White House has been reluctant to engage directly on the issue.

Jean-Pierre repeatedly deflected questions during a briefing on Monday.

Asked if protesters should be disciplined by their schools, he said “universities and colleges make their own decisions” and “we’re not going to weigh in from here.”

Pressed on whether the police should be called in, he said, “It depends on the colleges and universities.”

When the administrators were questioned about rescheduling the graduation ceremonies, he said, “That’s a decision they have to make” and “It’s up to them.”

Biden will make his own visit to the college campus on May 19 when he is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Morehouse University in Atlanta.

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Associated Press writer Adriana Gomes Ligan and AP writer Colin Long in Miami and White House correspondent Jake Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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