MPAC Condemns Calls for the National Guard to be Deployed Against Student Protestors

April 24, 2024 Statements

Washington, D.C. | | April 24, 2024 — The Muslim Public Affairs Council calls on the people of conscience, including faculty and leaders, to oppose threats to deploy the National Guard on the Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University, whose aim is to push back against the university’s continued financial investment in corporations that profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation in Palestine. To this date, Columbia’s perpetual misuse of over-policing and arrests of student protestors violates U.S. Constitutional freedoms and escalates the dangerous climate festering on campuses. 

This crackdown on students with an overwhelming militaristic force has set a dangerous precedent for university administrations nationwide. The militarization of our educational institutions and the deployment of overwhelming police forces against students engaging in peaceful protests is a deeply alarming development that is not only a threat to the safety of students but also to the democratic values of discourse and dissent that add value to our nation’s security. The severity of this response to peaceful pro-Palestinian protest— drawing attention to those who are complicit in enabling the genocide in Gaza— is deeply disturbing and not aligned with the principles of protection that the National Guard should embody. The desperate and disproportionate actions by the University and elected officials to silence dissent, are fundamentally irreconcilable with the role of the National Guard, which is to protect and defend American freedom and ideals, not to serve as a force for intimidating peaceful demonstrations. 

In an alarming escalation of already heightened tensions, Republican Senators, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, and others have echoed the Columbia University president’s threat to deploy the National Guard. This irresponsible development comes as no surprise considering that many political campaigns are heavily financed by pro-Israeli lobbying groups, which are placing additional pressure on the university administration– demanding them to call on the National Guard and expel student protestors under the guise of assuring the safety and civil rights of Jewish students while blatantly disregarding the rights, safety and freedoms of those students advocating to end the genocide in Palestine. 

This disregard for student freedoms can be seen throughout American history, including Kent State University in 1970, resulting in the death of four and wounding of nine unarmed students opposing the U.S. involvement in the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. Kent State University is a dark moment in history that serves as a reminder of the consequences of using excessive force against peaceful protestors. It is a sobering lesson that continues to resonate today, underscoring the importance of upholding the rights of free speech and peaceful assembly, even in the face of strong disagreement amidst political turmoil. 

We urge caution and a reevaluation of strategies used to handle protests on campuses across the nation, advocating for approaches that emphasize de-escalation and address students’ concerns through constructive means rather than force and intimidation. The use of fear tactics to control the pro-Palestinian movement must not overshadow our commitment to uphold civil liberties and foster an environment where students can freely express their beliefs. We also cannot overstate that this narrative employed by pro-Israel groups is meant to deter the general public from keeping their attention on the ongoing genocide in Gaza.

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