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A Chronicle of Hate

After more than eight months of demonstrations, unrest and outright bigotry and antisemitism that directly corresponded with the Gaza war, let’s review what happened in the closing days of the 2023-24 school year.
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June 19, 2024
An encampment on the UCLA campus on April 25, 2024 (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

For most American colleges and universities, both the academic school year and the accompanying campus protest season have now mercifully concluded. After more than eight months of demonstrations, unrest and outright bigotry and antisemitism that directly corresponded with the Gaza war, let’s review what happened in the closing days of the 2023-24 school year.

UCLA’s commencement week began inauspiciously with a return of the anti-Israel encampments that have upended the Bruin campus for most of the school’s spring quarter. According to the student newspaper, the protesters carried “a coffin-shaped object and objects painted to resemble bloodied body parts,” set up barricades blocking entry into classroom buildings, and vandalized a nearby fountain named after philanthropists Ralph and Shirley Shapiro. By the time the protests had been disbanded several hours later, students had been prevented from completing final exams and several protesters and law enforcement officers had sustained injuries.

There were no reports on whether any minds were changed about the war in the Middle East as a result of the on-campus violence.

By midweek, a pro-Palestinian group at UC Berkeley claimed credit for an alleged act of arson on that school’s campus in protest of the arrests at UCLA. This was the second incident of arson at Berkeley in recent weeks. Earlier in the month, an individual had set a university police vehicle on fire in retaliation for crackdowns on student protesters at UCLA and UC Santa Cruz.

Commencement day itself was marked by numerous disruptions. UCLA’s three graduation ceremonies were interrupted by demonstrations, walkouts, faculty boycotts, and several students standing while wearing and raising blood-red gloves in mid-ceremony. Neither Chancellor Gene Block or Provost Darnell Hunt, the university’s top two ranking officials, attended the ceremonies despite long-standing tradition, presumably to avoid any further controversy or confrontation.

This may be a logical time to investigate the impact of all this tumult over the last several months. Public opinion polls suggest that the protests are making a difference – just not that for which their organizers had hoped. If anything, the unrest may be driving voters in the opposite direction. In several recent national surveys, Democratic voters are much more likely to support the protesters’ policy goals but disapprove of the way they are making their voices heard. The independent voters who will decide the election feel even more strongly that the protests are wrong — even those who support their objectives.  (Not surprisingly, large majorities of Republicans disagree with both the protests and their objectives.) 

There is a notable generation gap showing that young people are much more likely to support the protests. But among the older voters who dominate the electorate, it appears that the activists are hardening opinions in opposition to their efforts. The primary goal of such confrontational activity is usually to motivate a cause’s existing supporters. But presumably the organizers also hoped to attract new advocates as well. While measuring the enthusiasm of loyal backers is difficult, it is clear from polls that the swing voters who are also a target of these protests are not reacting favorably to what they are seeing and hearing.

A similar dynamic occurred in the 1960s when campuses were roiled by protests in opposition to the Vietnam War. The majority of Americans did oppose the war, but their discomfort with the violence and malevolence of many of the war’s opponents may have slowed the war’s conclusion. Today’s debate has created a comparable situation: a plurality of American voters support a ceasefire, but oppose the campus protests by roughly a 2-1 margin. Twice as many respondents also believe that university administrators have been too lenient in response to the protests as those who think they have been too harsh.

When the riots begin again in the fall, let’s remember how much damage the instigators are doing to their own cause. 

This is not to minimize the effect of these disturbances, especially on Jewish and other pro-Israel students who are forced to endure the invective, the hatred and the violence directed toward them as they attempt to achieve the education to which they are entitled. But when the riots begin again in the fall, let’s remember how much damage the instigators are doing to their own cause.


Dan Schnur is the U.S. Politics Editor for the Jewish Journal. He teaches courses in politics, communications, and leadership at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the monthly webinar “The Dan Schnur Political Report” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall. Follow Dan’s work at www.danschnurpolitics.com.

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