In Brief Address, Biden Condemns 'Lawless' College Protests and Says No National Guard on Campuses

May 2, 2024

President Joe Biden in a brief address on Thursday condemned the "lawless" protests that have recently sprung up across U.S. college campuses, stressing that "order must prevail" but stopping short of endorsing the deployment of the National Guard.

"Violent protest is not protected—peaceful protest is," Biden said. "It’s against the law when violence occurs. Destroying property is not a peaceful protest. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations—none of this is a peaceful protest."

While affirming peaceful protests as "in the best tradition of how Americans respond to consequential issues," the president emphasized the United States is not a "lawless country" but "a civil society [where] order must prevail."

"Whether it’s anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or discrimination against Arab Americans or Palestinian Americans, it’s simply wrong," Biden added. "There’s no place for racism in America. It’s all wrong. It’s un-American."

As he was leaving the press room after the address, the president told reporters he would not reconsider his position on the Israel-Hamas war and that he does not think the National Guard should intervene to help restore order on college campuses nationwide.

Biden’s remarks came amid chaotic and oftentimes violent anti-Israel demonstrations at many of America’s top academic institutions, including Columbia University; Harvard University; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The Republican-led House Education and Workforce Committee earlier this week called on the presidents of Yale University, the University of Michigan, and UCLA to testify in front of Congress regarding rising anti-Semitism on their campuses.

Harvard president Claudine Gay and University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill resigned after they sparked national outrage late last year by telling the House committee that calling for the genocide of Jews would not necessarily violate their schools’ code of conduct.