Monday, July 15, 2024

Virginia Groups Show Support for Ongoing College Protests

When student demonstrators gather unopposed, data show police have intervened in pro-Palestine demonstrations four times more than pro-Israel demonstrations. (Suiren2022/Wikimedia Commons via Virginia News Connection)

RICHMOND — Some Virginia groups are choosing to offer support to pro-Palestine student protestors.

Recent weeks have seen more than 100 arrests of protestors on Virginia college campuses. Many are demanding their schools stop investing in companies supporting Israel in its war in Gaza, although critics point out it would be more difficult than many people assume.

LaTwyla Matthias, executive director of Progress Virginia, said along with knowing their rights, protestors can stay safe in many ways.

“Don’t talk to the police without an attorney present,” Matthias outlined. “Make sure that they have food, water, medication, in case they do get detained or arrested; make sure that they’re wearing a mask because we’ve been getting reports of gassing.”

The Southwest Virginia Young Democrats have asked people to contribute to a fund for bail for protestors who are arrested. Gov. Glenn Youngkin has said he supports peaceful protests, but stressed that encampments and intimidation of Jewish students on college campuses won’t be tolerated.

A report from a nonprofit group tracking armed conflicts and events shows most student protests since the Israel-Hamas war began last October have been peaceful. Only since April have protests involving students outnumbered those of other groups.

Matthias voiced concerns school administrators are not doing enough to ensure students’ First Amendment rights, especially when they call in law enforcement. She thinks they should take a different approach.

“They should be cultivating an environment where the students can protest and speak their minds,” Matthias asserted. “The students are in the care of the university that they attend so they really should be protecting the students from harassment and intimidation.”

In Congress, U.S. House members are asking college and university presidents to testify before the chamber’s Education and Workforce Committee on their handling of protests. So far, the presidents of Yale, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Michigan have been called before Congress.

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