Student protesters in Virginia are receiving support from the community

Some Virginia groups are choosing to offer support to pro-Palestinian student protesters.

More than 100 arrests of protesters have been made on college campuses in Virginia in recent weeks. Many are demanding that their schools stop investing in companies that support Israel in the war in Gaza, although critics suggest this would be more difficult than many people think.

LaTwyla Matthias, executive director of Progress Virginia, said there are many ways protesters can stay safe, in addition to knowing their rights.

“Don’t talk to the police without a lawyer present,” Matthias outlined. “Make sure they have food, water and medicine in case they are detained or arrested; make sure they wear a mask because we are getting reports of gassing.”

The Young Democrats of Southwest Virginia have asked people to do just that contribute to a fund for bail for the protesters who have been arrested. Governor Glenn Youngkin has said he supports peaceful protests but emphasized that encampments and harassment of Jewish students on college campuses will not be tolerated.

A report by a nonprofit organization that tracks armed conflict and events shows that most student protests since the war between Israel and Hamas began last October have been peaceful. Only since April have protests involving students outpaced those of other groups.

Matthias expressed concern that school administrators are not doing enough to ensure students’ First Amendment rights, especially when they involve police. She thinks they should approach it differently.

“They should create an environment where the students can protest and express their opinions,” Matthias claimed. “The students are in the care of the university where they study, so they should really be protecting the students from harassment and intimidation.”

In Congress, members of the U.S. House of Representatives are asking college and university presidents to testify before the chamber’s Education and Workforce Committee about their handling of the protests. So far, the presidents of Yale, the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Michigan have been called before Congress.

Virginia News Connection