US Speaker Mike Johnson Demands the resignation of the President of Columbia University

The US House of Representatives’ majority leader has demanded that Columbia University’s president step down.

Nemat Shafik, the president of the university, has not, according to Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, ensured the security of Jewish students on campus.

Pro-Palestinian protestors have also demanded Ms. Shafik’s resignation due to the way the police have handled the demonstrations.

Protests against the war in Gaza have recently expanded to US colleges, starting at Columbia.

A week ago, students at an Ivy League university in Manhattan established a protest campsite.

When the university requested that the New York Police Department evacuate the camp on April 18, cops made around 100 arrests.

Since then, demonstrators have returned to the area armed with additional signs and tents. In response, Columbia administrators moved the remainder of the semester’s classes from in-person instruction to online and hybrid learning due to safety concerns.

Following his discussion with Ms. Shafik, Mr. Johnson and other Republican congressmen convened a press conference at Columbia on Wednesday.

Throughout his speech, the demonstrators heckled and chanted, one of their favourite lines being “We can’t hear you.”

The Speaker threatened to use National Guard forces to break up the ongoing demonstration, claiming that Columbian officials had done little to restore order.

“This poses a risk,” stated Mr. Johnson. “We respect free speech, we respect diversity of ideas, but there is a way to do that in a lawful manner and that’s not what this is.”

Columbia political science professor Page Fortna told the BBC that she had witnessed several “highly objectionable” actions during the protests, such as the tearing of an Israeli flag from a student’s hand and “extremely problematic” remarks.

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But Ms. Fortna went on to say that she had not witnessed any instances of physical violence directed at Jewish students on campus, labelling as “exaggerated” the claims of pervasive antisemitism made by Mr. Johnson and other Republican politicians.”There’s a real difference in the tone of the conversation outside the gates, and what’s actually happening on campus,” she stated.

On Wednesday, a masked demonstrator shouted insults and derogatory remarks at students while standing on a street corner outside the university.He was then accosted by a number of protest camp supporters who told him that his comments “cheapened” their efforts. A Baltimore native who travelled to New York to back the demonstrators, Caroline Daisy, stated, “This is really detrimental to the movement.”

“This movement is not anti-Semitic. However, sometimes it’s a different story with demonstrators outside.”

During this week’s interviews, more protestors contended that instances of intimidation directed towards Jewish students were infrequent and exaggerated by individuals who were against their requests.

Additionally, “outside agitators” are credited by New York police and school officials for inciting the protests.

Guy Sela, an Israeli Columbia student and former Israel Defence Forces soldier, told the BBC on Wednesday that he felt “every Israeli Jewish student” at the institution has experienced “at least one antisemitic act,” whether it be verbal or violent, since the protest started.

“I’ve been threatened here, called names like murderer, butcher and rapist, just because I was born in Israel,” added the man.

Following the police encampment at Columbia, protests against Israel’s attack in Gaza swept the nation:

  • After attempts to keep them out, protesters set up a camp at Harvard University on Wednesday afternoon, and camps were also reported at other Boston-area universities including MITTufts and Emerson
  • Police pushed back protesters at the University of Texas in Austin. The Daily Texan, the campus student newspaper, said that around 50 police were on the scene, including officers on horseback
  • Police were also seen confronting protesters in chaotic scenes on social media at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles
  • Two students were arrested at Ohio State University in Columbus after a protest on Wednesday
  • At the University of California, Berkeley, a camp was set up in Sproul Plaza, a regular site of anti-war and free speech protests. School authorities indicated they would tolerate the camp as long as it didn’t interfere with university operations
  • Camps were also reported at other universities including the New School in Florida, the University of Michigan, and the University of Rochester in New York state
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Universities have been under pressure from activists to “divest from genocide” and to cease allocating sizable portions of their endowments to businesses that produce weapons and other sectors that aid Israel’s conflict in Gaza.

Israel vehemently refutes any insinuation that it is carrying out genocide in the Palestinian enclave, notwithstanding the International Court of Justice’s finding that the charge was “plausible”.

The conflict started on October 7, when gunmen from Hamas launched an unprecedented onslaught on southern Israel, murdering over 1,200 people, the most of whom were civilians, and kidnapping 253 more to be taken prisoner back to Gaza.

Since then, over 34,180 people have died in Gaza, the most of them women and children, according to the health ministry operated by Hamas in the region.

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