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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Pro-Palestinian student protests have been largely peaceful. Right-wing media want to call in the National Guard.

As pro-Palestinian demonstrations continue on college campuses nationwide, right-wing media outlets and personalities have become a geyser of unfounded accusations that the student protesters are engaging in physical violence, calling the protests “exceptionally violent” and a “modern day Kristallnacht.” 

Numerous right-wing media figures, both on television and online, have used these assertions as the basis for calling on elected officials to activate the National Guard to shut down protests and impose the “rule of law.”

  • As demonstrations spread from NYC schools to campuses across the country, there has been little evidence of violence from student protesters

    • Since April 17, a series of protests have sprung up at university campuses around the United States, with students “calling for universities to separate themselves from any companies that are advancing Israel’s military efforts in Gaza — and in some cases from Israel itself.” Protests and encampments have arisen at Columbia University, New York University, Yale University, and numerous other campuses. [The Associated Press, 4/25/24; Media Matters, 4/24/24]
    • The New York Police Department reportedly “received no reports of physical violence against anyone” on Columbia University’s campus as of April 22, and Police Chief John Chell described the protesters, some of whom were arrested, as “peaceful” and said they “offered no resistance whatsoever.” Deputy Commissioner of Public Information Tarik Sheppard said there were “no credible threats to any particular group or individual.” As of April 24, encampment organizers negotiated with Columbia University officials to not call the New York Police Department or the National Guard on protestors for the next 48 hours.  [NBC New York, 4/22/24; Columbia Spectator, 4/18/24; Columbia Spectator, 4/24/24]
    • MSNBC and NBC correspondent Antonia Hylton tweeted that she “didn’t see a single instance of violence or aggression on the lawn or at the student encampment” on Columbia’s campus in her two days reporting there, during which the police arrested over 100 students. Hylton also clarified that “public protests happening on the street are not the same as the encampment inside. Don’t imply students at Columbia/Barnard are involved in events that they were not present or responsible for.” [Twitter/X, 4/21/24; The New York Times, 4/20/24]
    • News reports have cited New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ explanations that “the protests have been mostly peaceful” and “outside agitators” are responsible “for causing problems with authorities.” Adams and police officials blamed “outside agitators” for an incident at New York University in which objects were thrown at police during a mass arrest of demonstrators. [Fox News, America Reports, 4/24/24; The Hill, 4/23/24; Huffington Post, 4/23/24]
    • The New York Times has reported that there have been “no reports of significant violence” at the various campus protests, though there have been “dozens of arrests.” [The New York Times, 4/24/24]
    • Some campus protests have been met with violent police crackdowns in which officers have “aggressively detained dozens of protesters” and thrown at least one “to the ground,” sometimes deploying tear gas, tasers, and batons. A video taken on Thursday morning at Emory University in Atlanta appeared to show “a trio of police officers tasing a protester, who was handcuffed and held down on the ground.” In Texas, the state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said officials “rapidly escalated” the situation at the University of Texas at Austin “by deploying law enforcement in riot gear against students and the press.” [The Associated Press, 4/25/24; The Independent, 4/25/24; The Daily Beast, 4/25/24
  • But right-wing media continue to fearmonger about supposed on-campus violence from protesters

    • Fox contributor Nicole Parker said protests at Columbia were “becoming potentially terroristic.” Parker said she would “like to see the FBI step in” because “there is always that fine line — you have your First Amendment rights to protest, but the moment that it’s causing problems and becoming potentially terroristic, that is not OK.” [Fox News, America Reports, 4/18/24]
    • OnThe Ingraham Angle, Sahar Tartak, the student who alleged that she was “jabbed” in the eye by a pro-Palestinian demonstrator on Yale’s campus, argued there is an “environment of violence” on Columbia’s campus. Tartak, identified in the chyron as “attacked at pro-Palestine protest,” said: “I have friends who were assaulted at Columbia. … The assailants are part of these groups and protected by these groups. They create environments of violence and assault for Jewish students and then try to claim victimhood when they face the consequences.” [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/22/24]
    • One America News reporter Dana Alexa introduced a segment on the protests by saying, “Calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students enters its fifth day at Columbia University.” [One America News, One America News, 4/22/24]
    • Newsmax host Chris Plante claimed student protesters at Columbia, Yale, and MIT were engaging in “violent anti-Israel riots” and orchestrating a “modern day Kristallnacht.” Plante said: “It’s the Ivy League, where every nacht is Kristallnacht,” comparing the demonstrations to the violent nationwide pogrom in Nazi Germany. [Newsmax, Chris Plante: Right Squad, 4/22/24; The Holocaust Encyclopedia, accessed 4/24/24]
    • Right-wing media personality Adam Guillette claimed on One America News that student protesters at Columbia were “exceptionally violent.” He later called the protesters “violent antisemites.” [One America News, Real America with Dan Ball, 4/19/24]
    • Discussing protests at Yale, Newsmax host Greg Kelly said, “You can’t take over an intersection downtown and be peaceful.” Kelly went on to call the demonstrators “pro-terrorist” and suggested their actions were “approaching the Holocaust.” [Newsmax, Greg Kelly Reports, 4/22/24]
    • NewsNation's Leland Vittert on student protests: “The anti-Israel protests sweeping American college campuses are anything but peaceful.” [NewsNation, On Balance with Leland Vittert, 4/23/24]
  • Right-wing media are now calling for the National Guard to break up campus protests

    • Fox guest Joe Cardinale suggested “bringing in the National Guard” to clear protests blocking buses. He asked: “To what extent do you let them protest? This is not peaceful.” [Fox News, America Reports, 4/18/24]
    • Fox guest and “pro-Israel activist” Archie Gottesman said that “maybe they need to call in the National Guard” to the Columbia University protest. Gottesman: “I don’t think that the police in New York are handling this. I think that maybe they need to call in the National Guard.” [Fox News, Fox News at Night, 4/19/24]
    • Fox host Brian Kilmeade, quoting a Columbia professor: “If the NYPD can't do this, then we need the National Guard.” [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 4/22/24]
    • Fox News political analyst Newt Gingrich said it’s “essentially right” to call in the National Guard. He continued, “These university presidents should be told flat out, ‘If you are not going to insist on the rule of law, then we are going to come in, and we're going to impose it.’” Host Laura Ingraham responded by saying Biden would never do this, but “if he listened to you, Newt, he would be a lot more popular.”  [Fox News, The Ingraham Angle, 4/23/24
    • Right-wing influencer Amuse called for Biden to “dispatch troops” to “intercede” on campus, drawing a comparison to the National Guard being called to facilitate school integration in the 1950s. [Twitter/X, 4/23/24]
    • Fox anchor Dana Perino suggested the National Guard be called in to create a passage for students. Perino: “If Biden and president of Columbia wanted to, they could make a safe passage for students to get to class and NYPD maybe could be called in to help, and the National Guard could call in to help — shouldn't that be the answer? Like if not, then the protesters win.” [Fox News, America‘s Newsroom, 4/24/24]
    • Trump ally Laura Loomer called for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul to deploy the National Guard “before someone gets hurt” at Columbia. [Twitter/X, 4/21/24]
    • Newsmax host Rob Finnerty: “There is the scene at Columbia. … They should send in, if the NYPD can’t do it, guess what, Kathy Hochul? Send in the National Guard.” [Newsmax, Wake Up America, 4/24/24]