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Speaker Johnson calls on Biden to visit Columbia amid pro-Palestine protests

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is urging President Biden to visit Columbia University and observe the pro-Palestine protests roiling its Manhattan campus after Johnson and a group of GOP lawmakers stopped by the university grounds and denounced the demonstrations.

Asked during a press conference on Tuesday if he would challenge Biden to visit Columbia — which has been the site of one of the most explosive pro-Palestine campus protests in the U.S. — Johnson responded, “Yeah, I do.”

“In fact, after we left the campus I made a call to senior policy advisors in the White House. The president was on the road, as I was, and we did not connect immediately but I’ve encouraged him to go and see it for himself,” he added.

The Hill reached out to the White House for comment.

Johnson held a press conference at Columbia’s Manhattan campus alongside other House Republicans last week, where they called on university President Nemat Shafik to resign after the pro-Palestine protests, which include an encampment, took over the college grounds. The lawmakers met with Shafik just before they delivered their remarks, which drew boos from the students present.

The GOP group also urged students protesting to return to class and stop the demonstrations.

Johnson at the time said he planned to call Biden to “share with him what we have seen with our own two eyes and demand that he take action,” contending that “there is executive authority that’d be appropriate.” He also floated having the National Guard be sent in to quell the protests, saying “if this is not contained quickly, and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard.”

The demonstrations at Columbia escalated overnight Tuesday when a group of pro-Palestinian protesters took control an academic building, barricading entrances and flying a Palestinian flag outside a window.

The White House condemned that development, calling it “absolutely the wrong approach.”

“The president believes that forcibly taking over a building on campus is absolutely the wrong approach, that is not an example of peaceful protests,” White House national security communications adviser John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

“Hate speech and hate symbols also have no place in this country. A small percentage of students shouldn’t be able to disrupt the academic experience, the legitimate study, for the rest of the student body,” he added.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates re-upped that sentiment when reached for comment on Johnson’s remarks Tuesday, but he did not directly address whether the president would visit Columbia.

“President Biden has stood against repugnant, Antisemitic smears and violent rhetoric his entire life. He condemns the use of the term ‘intifada,’ as he has the other tragic and dangerous hate speech displayed in recent days. President Biden respects the right to free expression, but protests must be peaceful and lawful. Forcibly taking over buildings is not peaceful – it is wrong. And hate speech and hate symbols have no place in America,” Bates said.

Alex Gangitano contributed. Updated at 4:23 p.m.

Source: The Hill

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