‘Go Back to Class,’ Speaker Johnson Tells Protesting Students at Columbia University

‘Go Back to Class,’ Speaker Johnson Tells Protesting Students at Columbia University
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) holds a press conference at Columbia campus to call for the resignation of University President Minouche Shafik, in New York on April 24, 2024. (Alex Kent/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) spoke to a loudly booing crowd at Columbia University on April 24 with a number of Republican lawmakers at his back.

Mr. Johnson delivered a stern address condemning the rise of anti-Semitic sentiments on campus.

“We’re standing here at one of America’s preeminent academic institutions, where the cherished traditions of this university are being overtaken by radical and extreme ideologies,” he said.

When questioned about what his message was to the students in the encampments, Mr. Johnson said: “Go back to class. … Stop wasting your parents’ money.”

The news conference took place just hours after he called for Columbia University President Minouche Shafik to resign over her handling of anti-Israel demonstrations on campus during an April 24 interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Mr. Johnson is one of several lawmakers who have called for Ms. Shafik’s resignation.

His remarks were prompted by recent incidents of anti-Semitic behavior on campus, including verbal attacks, racial epithets, and even threats against Jewish students.

The speaker also said he would call President Joe Biden and ask that he send the National Guard to quell the protests.

He pointed to a disturbing trend of support for terrorist groups such as Hamas among some students, highlighting the endorsement issued by Hamas for protesters on the campus.

“The madness has to stop,” Mr. Johnson said, his voice rising above the murmurs of dissent in the crowd.

“We cannot allow such hatred and anti-Semitism to flourish on our campuses.”

Near the start of his comments, he quoted the former British prime minister who served during World War II.

“It was [Winston] Churchill who said, ‘It is manifestly right, that Jews should have a national home where they may be reunited,'” Mr. Johnson said.

“We believe in that principle. And today, I’m here to proclaim to all those who gnashed their teeth and demand to wipe the state of Israel off the map and attack our innocent Jewish students, this simple truth: Neither Israel nor these Jewish students on this campus will ever stand alone.”

The Louisiana lawmaker went on to point out that the terrorist group Hamas had issued a statement endorsing the protesters on the campus.

“They call them the future leaders of America,” he said. “It is detestable.”

Mr. Johnson recounted harrowing stories from Jewish students who had experienced acts of bigotry and discrimination simply because of their faith.

He emphasized the bravery of these students and denounced the growing prevalence of anti-Semitic rhetoric in American society.

Encampments have emerged on the campuses of numerous universities as a result of pro-Palestinian demonstrations sparked by Israel’s military retaliation against Hamas in Gaza.

On April 17, the demonstrations broke out at Columbia University before spreading to Yale University, New York University, and other institutions.

New York police arrested more than 100 pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the Columbia University campus on April 18.

The following day, protesters resumed their activities in spite of widespread arrests and suspensions.

University officials said early on April 24 that they were extending a deadline for protesters to clear out.

They said the demonstrators had committed to removing a significant number of tents and agreed that only students would remain at the encampment.

They also said they would make the encampment more welcoming by banning any discriminatory language or harassing messages.

“From university professors to public officials, people in positions of authority have denied the horrific facts of Sept. 11, 2001, the attacks on the United States,” Mr. Johnson said. “That happened right here in New York City, and they’ve attempted to excuse or to ignore the barbaric attack of Hamas in Israel on October 7, 2023.”

His words resonated with a sense of urgency.

Throughout his address, Mr. Johnson underscored the need for immediate action to address the rise of anti-Semitism, calling on Columbia University’s administration to take decisive steps to ensure the safety and well-being of Jewish students on campus.

“We just can’t allow this kind of hatred to go unchecked,” he said, his tone unwavering.

“Those who perpetrate violence and discrimination against Jewish students must be held accountable.”

Other lawmakers also spoke about what the students experienced in the university, including swastikas on the walls and being spat on.

The representatives joined Mr. Johnson’s call for the resignation of the university president and for Hamas to surrender and end the conflict.

At the end of his prepared comments, Mr. Johnson said: “To every Jewish student listening to us, no matter where you are around the country, you have my word.

“The U.S. House of Representatives will do everything in our power to ensure that you are safe. You can freely practice your faith. And you can go to school, just like everybody else.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

From The Epoch Times

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