Dissent can get you jailed (theappeal.org).
by Steve Timmer
Apr 26, 2024, 7:00 PM

From the campus to the jail

Not ‘From the River to the Sea’

From an online news source, The Appeal, on April 26th:

Based on The Appeal’s survey of local news reports and student newspapers, police have so far made at least 670 arrests on 18 campuses. The arrests occurred in 14 different states.

Despite peacefully protesting, students still face severe consequences—including potential suspensions, evictions, expulsions, and criminal prosecutions. The latter depends on local prosecutors (or, in some cases, municipal city attorneys) who often have broad leeway to file—or drop—charges after someone is arrested.

According to The Appeal, almost all of the prosecutors contacted about what they intended to do was to charge the students. It is not extravagant to say that it amounts to criminalizing – for the vast majority of the students, anyway – peaceful protest and speech against Israeli genocide – because that is what it is – in Palestine and the support and complicity of the United States in it. The ease and speed with which law enforcement and prosecutors have moved to suppress First Amendment speech, assembly, and petition rights is breathtaking. That they’re doing it at the instance of university administrations – including at the University of Minnesota – is ominous.

Older readers will recognize the echo from the Vietnam era. That time of dissent and protest brought down a sitting president: this might, too. The criminal Richard Nixon followed Lyndon Johnson, and the criminal Donald Trump may follow Joe Biden. If President Biden trades democracy for Bibi Netanyahu, it will make the Vikings’ trade for Herschel Walker look really good.

The protests seem only to grow with each crackdown.

This was all foreshadowed for me by the suspension of two Somali Muslim teenage girls by the administration at Edina (Minnesota) High School in October of last year. The U.S. Department of Education opened a Title VI investigation into the suspensions. I think you can draw a straight line between Edina’s actions and that of Columbia, Emory, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Minnesota. [And now Dartmouth, too.]

I wrote a letter to the editor at the Sun Current, the local newspaper (which, thankfully, still exists), that was published on December 7, 2023:

Two students were recently suspended from Edina High School for three days for shouting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” when a large group of students walked out of school to protest U.S. policy in Palestine. It makes some Jewish students uncomfortable, said the administration, because to “some people” the slogan means the destruction of Israel. Other people think it means the end to the brutal, apartheid treatment of Palestinians by Israel, a laudable objective in my opinion.

We learned in Tinker v. Des Moines Schools (involving a black armband protest against the Vietnam war), though, that students don’t forfeit their First Amendment rights when they enter a school. A school has a legitimate interest in maintaining the learning environment, but the students who shouted the slogan didn’t disrupt the learning environment any more than the other students who walked out but were not suspended. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, the two who were singled out for coercive treatment are Somali-American students.

The suspensions are simply not defensible.

Suppressing speech or expression because it “makes some people uncomfortable” is what the Orwellian-named Moms for Liberty does. Books about racism, slavery and LGBTQ+ are all taboo to them because they make people “uncomfortable.”

That can’t be the test for a public school whose mission under the Minnesota Constitution (Art. 13, Sec. 1) is to educate students to be capable of participating in public life. Political expression is a core part of participating in that public life.

And just for the record, criticism of Israeli treatment of Palestinians and U.S. support of it is not antisemitic. Organizations such as AIPAC and the Jewish Community Relations Council want you to think it is, but there are many Jewish individuals and organizations that disagree.

Really, I KNOW you can draw that straight line. You can read about the involvement of the Jewish Community Relations Council in the Edina suspensions at the links above, and if you read reporting surrounding campus arrests around the country, you will also read about pressure on university administrations by Israeli advocacy groups like the America Israeli Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) and by Israeli-aligned university donors. Over half of the Congress has received money from AIPAC-aligned groups; it seems often that they are a congress member’s largest contributor.

Don Samuels’ primary campaign against Ilhan Omar last cycle was funded by a lot of AIPAC-aligned dollars, and it will be this cycle, too. According to news reports, AIPAC is committed to spending $100 million to defeat congressional candidates who do not express adequate fealty to Zionist Israel.

Groups like AIPAC and the JCRC have been working hard for years to take criticism of Israeli apartheid, land grabbling, and violence against Palestinians off the table for criticism. They’re behind the anti-BDS (Boycott, Disinvest, Sanction) legislation passed around the country, including in Minnesota, as well as efforts in Congress to sanction BDS speech and activity.

Ilhan Omar called all of this the effect of the ‘Benjamins,’ and she was right. For the sin of telling the truth, Rep. Omar was heavily criticized by Democratic leadership in the Congress. Well, and by Ron Latz, too.

People make fun of Boomers these days, but a lot of Boomers got their heads cracked bringing about a change in attitudes about the Vietnam war. Their grandkids seem embarked on the same mission about Israel. Good for them.

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