House Speaker Johnson drowned out by booing crowds at Columbia University speech on Gaza protests

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-LA) attends a news conference at Columbia University in response to demonstrators protesting in support of Palestinians, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City, U.S., April 24, 2024.

David Dee Delgado | Reuters

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., struggled to get a word in edgewise Wednesday, battling a chorus of booing crowds during a speech at Columbia University where he condemned the ongoing student protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

“Enjoy your free speech,” Johnson said tersely, pausing his prepared remarks to wait for the jeering to die down.

Columbia’s campus has been frozen by controversy since student protesters set up a tent encampment April 17 to protest the war in Gaza.

The demonstrations garnered national attention amid reports of antisemitic speech targeting Jewish students, and after Columbia President Nemat “Minouche” Shafik authorized the New York Police Department to sweep the tent encampment Thursday.

Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, a group that helped organize the protests, has said that any hate speech is not coming from its protesters but rather “inflammatory individuals who do not represent us.”

During Johnson’s speech Wednesday, he called on Shafik to resign if she could not get a handle on the protests.

Johnson added that he plans to urge President Joe Biden to take executive action against the protests if necessary: “If this is not contained quickly, and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard.”

Biden has so far condemned both the reported antisemitism and “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,” as he put it to reporters Monday.

Johnson’s speech Wednesday came hours after Biden officially signed into law a long-awaited foreign aid bill for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan that had been effectively shelved in the House for weeks due to political gridlock.

The measure was revived in large part due to Johnson’s decision to put the proposed foreign aid to a vote on the House floor Saturday, despite ouster threats from hardline members of his party such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. The foreign aid bill passed the House on Saturday and received official Senate approval late Tuesday night.

After more than a week of bipartisan cooperation with Democrats to pass the aid bill, Johnson’s Columbia speech appeared to be an attempt to bolster his conservative bona fides for his hardline GOP colleagues.

The speaker was joined by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y.

“My message to the students inside the encampment is: Go back to class,” Johnson said. “Stop wasting your parents’ money.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top