Philly Inquirer Columnist Writes about Student Gaza Protestors Facing Riot Law Enforcement for So-Called ‘Safety’ Reasons  

credit: Megan Wilkinson.

By Connie Martinez

PHILADELPHIA, PA – U.S. universities from coast to coast have encountered riot law enforcement in the midst of student-held protests, and, as acknowledged by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch, there is a long history of college students holding protests at universities to stand against wars.

For instance, as Bunch indicates, in the 1960’s students protested against the Vietnam War, noting, “History doesn’t repeat but it rhymes, gratingly.”

Current college students are speaking out against the attacks of women and children in Gaza, and, as the Inquirer states, “college administrators from Boston to L.A are racing to call in heavily armored riot cops to shut down protest encampments at campuses they’d sold to applicants as bastions of academic freedom, open expression, and historic demonstrations that had changed the world.”

The Inquirer asserts the use of militarized police is a nationwide assault on college free speech, claiming, “They are destroying the American university in order to keep it ‘safe.’”

At the University of Texas in Austin, students put together a pro-Palestine protest. As a result, state troopers arrested students. The Inquirer notes how “right-wing authoritarian Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a large helmeted brigade of state troopers to march through the heart of his state’s flagship campus and shut down a pro-Palestinian protest that he’d branded as violent and antisemitic even before the event had actually started.”

Another similar instance happened at Indiana and Ohio State Universities. The Inquirer states “Indiana and Ohio State Universities—who grew up on active shooter drills—were shocked to look up during their campus protests to see what appeared to be trained police snipers aiming long guns at the action.”

Additionally, “In Ohio, where the volley of National Guard shots that killed four students at Kent State University at a May 4, 1970, protest still echoes today, OSU officials called the rooftop officers just spotters before admitting they’d ‘switched to long-range firearms’ at night ‘once the troopers began using force on the students.’ ‘’

In Atlanta, police and the state troopers shot and killed a protester in 2023. Also, “Multiple videos from Emory University showed a string of violent arrests, including a young Black man who was shot with a Taser even though officers had immobilized him on the ground,” the Inquirer’s Bunch wrote. 

The article reveals that “an Emory economics professor, Caroline Fohlin, saw a cop violently arresting a student and screamed, “What are you doing?!,” a second officer grabbed her and slammed her hard to the ground, her head against the hard pavement, as she screamed, “I’m a professor.” Fohlin was then charged with “battery” against the police officer.

The article shares a video in Georgia where “Noëlle McAfee, chair of Emory’s philosophy department, stylishly dressed, handbag slung over her shoulder, is led away in handcuffs by a masked officer.” The article asserts how she faced a similar dilemma as Fohlin as her supposed crime was questioning an officer as they arrested a student.

The Inquirer article reveals, “She turned to a videotaping student and asked, “Can you call the philosophy department and tell them I’ve been arrested?” 

The Inquirer’s Bunch writes, “I’d kind of like to call the philosophy department myself, in the hope that some beautiful mind there can explain to me how college presidents can morally justify calling armed police officers against their own students to clamp down on free speech, beyond their desperation to stay employed.” 

“Or maybe someone in Fohlin’s economics department could pick up the line and do the math for me on why America’s best universities value their biggest donors over their students’ free expression.”

The Inquirer columnist adds, “The most tumultuous week on U.S. college campuses since May 1970 resulted in at least 600 arrests at 15 different schools as of Saturday, with more surely on the way,” adding, “It’s going to take even longer to tally all the students facing suspension and in some cases expulsion for speaking out on the bloodshed in Gaza, or the now-ruined careers of principled professors who stood between their students and a nightstick.”

The Inquirer piece maintains there will be “lasting psychological scars for young people who saw their dream college summon cops to arrest them or even fire rubber bullets or canisters of tear gas at them, which would be considered a war crime.”

The Inquirer asserts, “The notion of college as the American dream — fostering not just upward economic mobility but a nation of informed citizens taught to think critically — has been steadily dying since the original right-wing backlash against student protest in the 1960s triggered the end of taxpayer support for low tuition, which caused a $1.75 trillion student loan crisis.”

“Their ammunition is the complicated relationship between student protests for Palestinian liberation and against Israel’s current conduct in Gaza, where its more-than-six-month assault has killed at least 33,000 people — the majority of them women and children — and the constant scourge of antisemitism,” columnist Bunch writes.

The Inquirer adds that “there’s no question that the despicable harassment and assaults on Jews on or around college campuses have risen since the Oct. 7 start of the war (as they also have for Muslims).”

The Inquirer’s Bunch notes a claim linking antisemitism to the students “when some journalists cited a nonstudent and well-known antisemite stationed a block from the Columbia University main gate as an example of protester hate speech.”

Also, the Inquirer columnist wrote, “At Boston’s Northeastern University, administrators sent in police Saturday who detained 100 students based on a shout of ‘Kill all the Jews!’ that veteran journalists on the scene said came from a Jewish demonstrator waving an Israeli flag, apparently seeking an escalation.”

The Inquirer acknowledges, “But there has also been some instances of antisemitism that are indeed the fault of pro-Palestinian student protesters. In the most egregious example, an encampment leader at Columbia posted a video in which he said ‘Zionists don’t deserve to live!’ He’s been banned from the Manhattan campus, and rightfully so.”

The Inquirer’s Bunch writes, “The Gaza protests have given governors and their fellow travelers on Capitol Hill a golden opportunity to squelch the notion of a liberal education while squeezing out a few more tax-cut dollars for their billionaire donors, and creating a nightly Two Minutes Hate of young people on Fox News that distracts from the 88 felony counts against their presidential candidate.”

The article shares, “Topping off this perfect storm is a critical failure on the left, which over the last couple of decades has emphasized a particular brand of campus identity politics that didn’t take the free-speech question seriously, despite warnings from folks who remembered how hard students fought in the 1960s and ‘70s to win those rights.

“The safe-spaces crowd is now seeing the ‘safety’ issue turned against them at places like the University of Southern California, where administrators’ fear of a Muslim valedictorian led to the cancellation of commencement for 65,000 people,” writes the Inquirer. 

About The Author

Connie Martinez is a second-year student at the University of California, Los Angeles where she is majoring in Education with a minor in Public Affairs. Connie hopes to pursue her passion of being a voice for the silenced and wrongfully convicted by becoming a criminal defense attorney. In addition, she hopes to become a policymaker to cultivate an environment for minorities to thrive and be heard. Recognizing and experiencing the misfortunes of a family member being wrongfully incarcerated, she intends to guide and fight for those who have faced similar setbacks of inequity and injustice. In her free time, she enjoys going out with friends and bumping music while going on late night drives.

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