DC Edit | Campus protests test for Biden

As a wave of pro-Palestinian protests are sweeping the campuses, the United States is watching a replay of yore that racked the country at the time of the Vietnam War. While police action with armed law enforcement officers in riot gear marching to encampment sites on campuses is a grisly reminder of the 1960s and early 1970s, some university administrations are going further this time in banning students from campus and taking other measures to quell the youth who are rebelling for a cause.

Students of diverse backgrounds like Palestinians, Arabs, Jews, Muslims and Indians have been seen to be united in their condemnation of the Gaza war in which Israel, in a disproportionate response to the Hamas strike of October 7, has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians while razing much of the Gaza Strip to uninhabitable rubble.

The problem for the universities, most of all the epicentre of the protests which is Columbia in New York City, is, they have to act towards restoring order on campus by stamping out encampments. Their dilemma lies in how to address the demonstrations while respecting students’ right to express their views.

How far the youth can be allowed to go to demonstrate their opposition to the Gaza war, even as some of them are tending to slip into antisemitism, is a tricky proposition for the academic community that sees itself as a guardian of established values. The repression of free speech and of academic freedom is clearly an issue as students have been arrested.

It is déjà vu time for the Establishment which failed during the Vietnam war when it subdued protests and alienated a generation of youth who became disenchanted with their nation fighting someone else’s war somewhere on the globe far removed from their home country.

It is also a test of democratic values for a nation that swears by the First Amendment of free speech and the “freedom to peacefully assemble or gather together or associate with a group of people for social, economic, political or religious purposes”. When campuses seethe with anger and students break out in protest, it does indicate that US President Joe Biden’s stand on the Gaza war is not universally popular.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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