Student Protesters on US College Campuses: From and To

Vijay Violet
4 min readApr 28, 2024


A heart image with the inscription choose love.

“The protests are about what’s happening to the civilians in Gaza. Not against any faith.” Those are roughly the words I recall hearing from a protest organizer at a major public university on NBC News. If we suspend our assumptions and imaginations of what we hear or mishear about the protests, there’s good reason to believe those words.

What is happening in Gaza is a massive humanitarian crisis. The scale of death and destruction in Gaza and the miserable existence of nearly
two million Gazans living within 140 square miles can neither be
imagined nor be captured with words, stories, or images. The United
Nations has passed a resolution supporting a ceasefire, and the
leaders of countries east and west have urged a ceasefire. American
students have taken to protests as their institutions and their
government stand by, unable or unwilling to do what’s necessary to
bring the Gaza crisis to a halt. The protests are happening from coast
to coast and from north to south at institutions small and large, and
public and private. Here’s a short writing on the long history and origins of the Gaza war for context.

The protests in college campuses across the country are designed to
engage and capture the attention of fellow citizens in their cities as
well as the general public on a crisis faraway. They should be
entirely peaceful as almost every one of them is on the campuses.
Protests should cause no harm, but civil disobedience is a hallmark of
protests. By definition, meaningful protests cannot be done in a way
that causes no disruption to the normal lives of those around because
the purpose is to disrupt and seek attention. So efforts by
institutions to restrict where or when such protests are allowed are
not helpful. Where police have entered the scene, students have
yielded to arrests without incidents.

What can the vast majority of us who are watching these protests do
from the sidelines? For one thing, we can take a minute to appreciate
what the students are willing to risk for a cause that they believe. We are allowed to think they are misguided. But we cannot fall prey to political calculations of elected officials who, along with powerful donors, are pressuring administrators to circumvent free speech rights of students at their institutions. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has wisely called for letting the institutions handle this. Let us give the students and their institutions some space, plenty of space.

What should the protesters do? Most protests are peaceful, and most slogans chanted at these protests are nothing out of the routine. First realize that the same slogans might have wildly different meanings for different people, so ignorance is not bliss. Specifically, if any protest or a chant involves any form of violence against anyone in the US or elsewhere, though free speech it maybe, do not join the call! By joining the protest, you have not agreed to give up elementary rules of humanity. The next point is that while you may have no antisemitic bones in you, you cannot ignore the history of antisemitism in the US and Europe in recent times or the two millennia of hatred against the Jewish people. A vast majority of Jewish students and fellow citizens are appalled by what is happening in Gaza, and the turmoil in Israel precipitated by the atrocious events of October 7. So give them space. A lot of space and understanding.

The parallels between ongoing protests on college campuses to end the American involvement in Gaza and those of the sixties to end the American war on Vietnam are unmistakable. Protesters were called communists just as they are called antisemites today, for political reasons. The Vietnam war did end, but not for years after the protests began. A ceasefire will come to Gaza, hopefully much sooner, though an Israeli defense minister has said it could take “years, decades, or a generation.”

The American President, who ushered in programs for the Great Society in the sixties, decided against running for reelection in 1968 and his party’s nominee was soundly defeated as opposition to the Vietnam war escalated. President Biden, who, unlike the then President Lyndon Johnson, takes pride in his ability to handle complex foreign policy affairs, will do well to remember. The cautionary note here is not that the young protesters will abandon him in November elections without evaluating their alternatives. It is that they bring into question his abilities as an international statesman to help achieve a permanent Gaza ceasefire.

May there be love and peace!

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you wish to be included in the mailing list to receive VijayViolet writings as they are published, please email with Subscribe in the subject line. To unsubscribe, write mail with Unsubscribe in the subject line. There will be no unwanted mails. Your email will not be distributed.



Vijay Violet

I am an American. I care about the planet, its people and animals. I care about the oppressed and marginalized. And I care about the poor, both working and not.