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President Biden, Listen To the Students!

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Mustard color duotone of President Biden superimposed on black and white photo of student Palestine solidarity protest. "Get Free" logo layered over Biden's eyes

Campus protests in solidarity with Palestinians show our generation wants leaders who will rectify supremacy, not entrench it. It’s time President Biden followed our lead.

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Hundreds of our fellow University of Southern California (USC) classmates gathered on April 24 to protest in solidarity with Palestinians facing genocide in Gaza and to denounce the administration for canceling our Muslim valedictorian’s commencement speech due to her public support for ceasefire. But, instead of listening to students or at the very least respecting our freedom to make our voices heard, USC leadership allowed militarized police to enter our campus, brutalize us, and arrest nearly 100 that night. And we were not alone. At dozens of campuses across the country, law enforcement assaulted students who were taking bold moral action to divest their universities from the Israeli military’s occupation. The NYPD in riot gear using troop transports to attack Columbia students stands out as one of the most egregious examples.

As our phones lit up with texts from friends asking for help and helicopters littered our skies, we wondered if we’d woken up in a different era. But while it may not be 1970, a powerful few are still using the same authoritarian playbook from the days of the Kent State and Jackson State massacres to beat back the power of students. Meanwhile, many of the people pushing for a military crackdown on pro-Palestine student protests also line up with the forces working right now to entrench white supremacy in the United States.

In fact, the latest wave of censorship of Free Palestine student protests is a direct result of the McCarthy-like hearings from the Republican-controlled House, and are backed by the same billionaires trying their hardest to bludgeon DEI and to ban efforts to rectify discrimination. Days before the police escalation, MAGA Republicans dragged Columbia University’s president before Congress, threatening her job and federal funding for higher education if she didn’t stamp out student activism. GOP House Speaker Johnson then led a delegation of MAGA politicians to Columbia to demonize students, stoke further division, and create further justification for silencing any critique of U.S. support for the Israeli government’s crimes. Ultimately, this faction wants to exploit this moment to seize more control over what students and faculty are free to learn, speak, and teach and restrict what kinds of people are even allowed entry into higher education in the future.

When Ronald Reagan ran the University of California system, he used tuition hikes and student debt against activists and tested out many of the suppression techniques now being deployed against student protests nationwide. After years of his white supremacist faction railing against policies meant to rectify discrimination, the state outlawed affirmative action in public education, contracting, and employment when voters approved Proposition 209 in 1996. Black public university enrollment fell by 40% after that initiative passed. And we are now seeing this agenda being played out nationwide ever since the MAGA majority on the Supreme Court banned efforts to create equality in schools and workplaces.

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GenZ and Millennials across race and place see right through this old playbook and prioritize dismantling and repairing the harms of white supremacy. This is why we’ve turned out time and again since 2020 in our streets, workplaces, and polling booths to actually make this country reckon with the ongoing legacies of enslavement and genocide and demand a government that makes freedom and equality real. And we’re taking bold moral action now because we see the connections and parallels between the struggle for Palestinian freedom and our mandate to get free from white supremacy here at home.

Our generation wants leaders who will repair ongoing inequalities, not worsen them. A MAGA faction is now helming a centuries-long campaign to advance white supremacy. While they applaud a crackdown on pro-freedom and anti-war protests, they are encouraging white supremacists and pro-war provocateurs to march through our cities & commit violence. President Biden and Democratic leaders cannot allow this to continue. It’s time they showed they’re for real about standing up to the threat of authoritarianism by standing up for our freedom to protest and ending US support for genocide in Gaza.

Across the world, young people are raising a beacon of hope for a brighter future – we can either join together to repair the harm and bring the light or leave power on the table and let a wealthy few bring us deeper into darkness. Just like our ancestors in the abolitionist movement and civil rights struggle changed the course of history, what we decide to do at this crossroads matters. What happens next is up to us.

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