Tom Cotton criticizes campus protests, suggests police intervention from the start

Arkansas Republican Senator, Tom Cotton, has advocated for a more robust police response to the pro-Palestinian protests taking place on college campuses nationwide. He believes that as arrests and controversy continue to escalate surrounding these demonstrations against Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip, it is imperative to bolster law enforcement measures.

In an interview with ABC News “This Week” co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Cotton expressed his belief that school leaders, whom he accused of being influenced by political bias, should have immediately involved law enforcement when they first established their presence.

He criticized the liberal administrators and politicians for not immediately sending in the police to address the situation. “We should not have tolerated this for a moment,” he asserted.

Student protests against the war in Gaza and the high number of civilian casualties have emerged on campuses across the country in the past few weeks.

The incident has attracted significant media coverage and elicited different responses from school and state authorities. Some officials have engaged in discussions with the protesters, acknowledging the importance of both the right to protest and the well-being of other students. They have also emphasized the need to prevent violence and hate speech.

Police have intervened in certain cases to disperse the protestors, as seen at Columbia University. Here, arrests were made when students and other demonstrators occupied the university’s Hamilton Hall.

Several other universities still have intact encampments.

During an appearance on “This Week,” Cotton expressed his disapproval of the campus movement, referring to the demonstrators as “fanatics” and labeling each encampment as a “little Gaza.” This viewpoint follows his controversial remarks in 2020, where he called for the military to intervene in response to widespread civil unrest, specifically targeting “looting” and “rioting.”

When Karl pressed Cotton on the matter, the senator responded by saying, “Well, they refer to themselves as the Gaza solidarity encampments — they’re basically miniature versions of Gaza.”

Karl challenged, “You’re mocking the situation in Gaza, aren’t you?”

Cotton made it clear that he was not referring to the dire conditions faced by civilians in Gaza or the lives lost there. He placed the blame on Hamas, who initiated the current conflict with Israel following a terrorist attack on October 7th. Cotton clarified that his statement was directed towards the actions of the protesters, a significant number of whom are students.

“He said they deserved our contempt and our mockery.”

Cotton acknowledged that protesting, in most cases, is a protected form of activity. However, he argued that the demonstrations taking place on campuses have crossed a line.

In his statement, he strongly condemned the incidents of violence and expressed his disgust towards the “vile, antisemitic hate” that had been witnessed. He specifically highlighted an incident where a George Washington statue at a school was adorned with pro-Palestinian attire.

He emphasized that individuals are free to express their dissent through protests; however, it is important to adhere to campus regulations, policies, and the law. “While you have the right to support a terrorist group, it is crucial to refrain from violating any rules or breaking the law,” he stated firmly.

Several of the organizations supporting the pro-Palestinian protests have condemned antisemitism and made efforts to disassociate themselves from any acts of hatred towards Jewish people. They emphasize that such behavior does not align with their objectives or principles, which primarily focus on shedding light on the civilian suffering in Gaza.

During his interview on “This Week,” Cotton, a strong advocate for a robust U.S. presence overseas, also came to the defense of House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., regarding the recent approval of a foreign aid package. This package includes funds for Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine. The passage of this legislation is expected to prompt a vote on a resolution proposed by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who is known for her fiery rhetoric, calling for Johnson’s removal from his position.

According to Senator Cotton, a significant majority of House Republicans expressed their desire to support Ukraine, despite not supporting the specific legislation in question. While a smaller majority voted to completely cut off aid, Speaker Johnson has the support of about two-thirds of his entire conference on this issue. Additionally, the vast majority of House Republicans stand behind Speaker Johnson on matters concerning Israel or Taiwan, as pointed out by Karl.

Cotton dismissed the notion of a more isolationist Republican Party, stating that the opposition to foreign aid is rooted more in discussions about practicalities rather than core principles.

According to the speaker, many Republicans express valid and reasonable concerns regarding the capacity of our defense industrial base to support not only our military but also the military of other nations. These concerns are shared by the speaker as well. In order to address this issue, the speaker proposes investing more in the defense industrial base. It is important to note that this perspective is primarily driven by the practical circumstances within our defense industrial base.

Karl raised several concerns regarding Donald Trump, the Republican standard-bearer, and Cotton attempted to downplay certain discrepancies with the former president. This included Trump’s persistent refusal to acknowledge that the 2020 election was not tainted by widespread fraud.

Cotton, who does not share Trump’s rhetoric, instead chose to state his agreement with Trump regarding the notion that certain aspects of the 2020 race were “deeply unfair.”

When questioned about the possibility of becoming Trump’s running mate, Cotton dismissed the conversation as a mere speculative “parlor game” and avoided giving a direct answer.

According to Cotton, his main focus is on winning the election and supporting Donald Trump in his campaign. He also emphasized the importance of Republicans winning the Congress. Cotton stated that when Trump is ready to announce his choice for vice president, he will do so.

Karl inquired whether he shared the same viewpoint as Trump regarding the individuals being prosecuted for their alleged involvement in the Capitol Hill riot on January 6, 2021, being referred to as “hostages.”

Cotton argued that certain individuals who did not partake in violence were unfairly subjected to prolonged pretrial detentions. However, he emphasized that those who actively participated in the riot, including those who assaulted police officers or vandalized public property, should face the appropriate legal repercussions.

He expressed his opinion, saying, “That’s different.”

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