The ‘Outside Agitators’ of Campus Protests

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Police say some of the protesters at Columbia were chaos professionals.

Universities across the U.S. are finally inviting police to clear out protesters violating school rules, but that’s not the end of this story. Recent days have shown that the protests aren’t merely bursts of student moral concern about Gaza. They’re often guided by professional leftist groups exploiting students to foment chaos and intimidate President Biden.

On Tuesday night into Wednesday, the New York Police Department peacefully extricated protesters who had barricaded themselves into Hamilton Hall at Columbia University as well as those at the City College of New York. Nearly 300 were arrested. More than 30 protesters have been arrested at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 35 at Cal State, 72 at Arizona State and 100 at Washington University in St. Louis.

Schools are doing the right thing when they call the police to reestablish order over unruly mobs. A robust free-speech policy doesn’t conflict with requiring students to follow campus policies or face consequences for actions that threaten Jewish classmates.

The key is having lines that are clear from the beginning and then enforcing them. In a letter this week, University of Chicago President Paul Alivisatos wrote that free expression is a “core animating value,” and the school will act to protect “even expression of viewpoints that some find deeply offensive.” But a line is drawn against expression that “blocks the learning or expression of others” or “disrupts the functioning or safety of the University.”

Clear principles are critical because the protests aren’t likely to end soon. Protest networks are building and looking forward to a summer of love heading into the Democratic convention in Chicago in August. Organized leftist groups are now promoting and sometimes leading the protests as they did at Columbia, according to the NYPD and the school.

New York Mayor Eric Adams explained that the Columbia conflagration was fomented by “outside agitators” who have neither the students’ nor the university’s best interests at heart. “There were individuals on the campus who should not have been there,” the mayor said, noting that those who took over Hamilton Hall were “led by individuals not affiliated with the university,” some of whom were “professionals.”

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