[Fox News] Speaker Johnson calls out campus antisemitism as Columbia’s anti-Israel protesters shout at, heckle him

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NEW YORK — House Speaker Mike Johnson, the Louisiana Republican, held a press conference on the steps of Columbia University above an encampment where demonstrators demanding the school divest itself from Israel-linked businesses have occupied since last week.

The speaker blasted university leaders for permitting “mob rule” and intimidation tactics “overtake” the Founding Fathers’ ideals of freedom of speech, freedom of religion and “the free exchange of ideas.” 

Columbia President Minouche Shafik was seen walking away from the Low Memorial Library after Johnson’s speech. 

“We just can’t allow this kind of hatred and enemy antisemitism to flourish on our campuses, and it must be stopped in its tracks,” Johnson said.

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Hecklers repeatedly interrupted him, however, with a PA system many were listening to his remarks on their phones and the shouting was delayed as the stream lagged behind his real-time remarks.

Republican North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, speaking after Johnson, alleged that “inmates are running the asylum” as the encampment appeared to have interrupted preparations for upcoming commencement ceremonies and have been accused by Jewish students and faculty of creating an unsafe and intimidating environment a the heart of the Ivy League campus.

“You took action last week,” she said, referring to a short-lived effort to end the protest that resulted in several arrests. “It’s time to act again.”

If administrators fail to do so, she warned, Congress could take action.

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The encampment itself appeared subdued Wednesday, when university officials lifted the school lockdown to allow members of the media in. About 100 people were inside the hedge-lined gates, talking in small groups. People allowed into the space were asked not to take pictures of anyone’s face, not to use drugs or alcohol and not to speak with the media. Multiple people who said they were authorized to speak on behalf of the group declined to speak with Fox News Digital.
Some demonstrators said their cohorts had stepped out to see the speaker’s press conference or for other reasons. A schedule written on a white board at the center of the lawn noted it was time for lunch. Several students critical of the encampment said they believed the protesters had toned things down on purpose due to the media presence and the congressional delegation.

One student, who asked to be identified only with his first name, Josh, due to fears for his safety, told Fox News Digital that he could hear the protesters chanting anti-Israel slogans and beating drums well into the night.

“The scariest thing I want to emphasize is that we’ve had no idea who has been in these camps,” he said. “I’ve watched, while walking home at night, people climbing over the fence, smuggling stuff in through side doors.” He said some of the people he saw resembled a student he believed had been suspended in connection with the demonstrations.

He also played cellphone video taken over the weekend showing a group of anti-Israel agitators calling a pair of Jewish students “Zionists” and surrounding them because they were wearing Star of David necklaces.
“It’s just scary,” he said.

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As a result, he said, a group of Jewish students has begun monitoring the plaza for non-students and suspended students.

“None of us wanted to be activists,” he added. “We’ve all been dragged into it, though.”

Outside the perimeter of the encampment, pro-Israel students raised American and Israeli flags amid a field of missing person flyers showing the faces of dozens of the more than 200 people kidnapped when the militant Palestinian group Hamas launched a deadly assault on Oct. 7, 2023.

“These are current people, right now, that are hostages in Gaza,” said Itai Driefuss, a Columbia student and Israeli military veteran from Tel Aviv. “I think that a lot of people here don’t understand that as soon as you bring the hostages home, that’s all we want.”

Instead, he said he’s been spit on, stalked around campus, and harassed.

“It’s loud, and it’s scary, and a lot of Jewish and Israeli people don’t walk around on campus after the sun goes down,” he told Fox News Digital.

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