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Video: Sen. Mark Warner Says Hostage Deal Leading to Ceasefire Could “diffuse some of the protests that have taken place on campuses across the country and across Virginia”

Sen. Warner: peaceful right to protest is crucial, but laws must be enforced as well

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See below for video and a few highlights from Sen. Mark Warner’s press availability earlier today. On the Middle East situation and protests occurring on college campuses, Sen. Warner had the following to say:

  • “First of all, I agree with the Biden Administration that there should not be an offensive in Rafah until and unless the Israeli government can show how the close to million and a half Palestinians that are in that section of Gaza can be kept some level of safe. Israel has a right to defend itself the horrific tragedy of October 7 is I know still fresh on the minds of Israelis, but we’ve also seen 34,000 Palestinians killed, and a massive offensive in Rafah where more innocent civilians are wounded or killed is just not acceptable. And what I implore our friends in Israel to to remember is that, if as we saw a couple weeks ago when Iran launched a massive missile strike against Israel, that missile strike was unsuccessful; it was unsuccessful because of Israeli activity, of American assistance, but also assistance from the British, the French, the Jordanians and the Saudis. Israel is stronger when they have strong alliances. That support, particularly from Jordan and Saudi Arabia and potentially even from Britain and France, will disappear if the Israeli government takes this kind of action without protecting innocent Palestinians. And my hope, and I think finally the Israeli government has moved more aggressively on the hostage negotiations, I think we need a ceasefire…and we will find literally in the next day or so whether Hamas accepts the terms of a deal that I think are  fair. And I do commend to the Israelis for moving on that; we need this hostage deal to get those families returned. We saw the the video of Hersch Polin…his family were Virginia residents before they moved to Israel, this is the young man who lost his son and I’ve been very close with the family since October 7th – their son needs to come home. That’s only going to happen if there’s a hostage deal. If that takes place, I think we would see a dramatic lowering of tensions, we would have a ceasefire, and I think that would also diffuse some of the protests that have taken place on campuses across the country and across Virginia.”
  • “And let me address that. Let me be clear at the outset…I absolutely support the First Amendment right to protest peacefully; we have to acknowledge there is enormous pain and angst on a lot of these campuses… there is no place on American campuses for anti-Semitism or anti-Islamic rhetoric or beliefs. And we see on campuses across America where Jewish students don’t feel safe, where Muslim students don’t feel safe, where there is appropriate angst about the death and the destuction on both sides that’s taking place in the conflict in Gaza. But I also believe it is the responsibility… of the universities to make sure that that peaceful right to protest continues, it’s one of the hallmarks of our nation. But I also feel like there are laws, and when laws are broken, the law needs to be enforced…”
  • “And listen, there have been protests on college campuses literally since I’ve been born…in the 60s, I was in middle school, but I still remember when colleges were shut down around the Vietnam War with protest in 1968 and we’ve seen protests around literally dozens of other issues over the last 60 plus years. What is different about some of these protests, and I’m trying to do my own due diligence on this, is when when the protests are literally set up  encampments on university grounds. And I think most universities have rules against trying to bring permanent or semi-permanent encampments onto college campuses, that seems to be once these encampments take place, I’ve yet to see any of them that don’t end then in some level of of conflict. And I think we need to try to, we can try to do all we can to avoid that conflict. And frankly… the most important thing we could do to lower this temperature is to see if we could get this hostage deal, see if we could get a ceasefire and try to bring about reconciliation. I can tell you, as somebody was in Saudi Arabia in January, Saudi Arabia will never recognize Israel and try to help bring greater peace to the Middle East, and until this conflict will end. So it is in Israel’s best interest as well to go the extra mile both on the hostage deal and trying to bring this conflict in Gaza to an end.”
  • I think you have to look at these on an individual basis. I mean, I met with some of the VCU leadership this morning; I‘ve got more questions that I need to get answered in terms of the ratio of VCU law enforcement, city law enforcement, State Police law enforcement. So…I’m not going to make some kind of blanket statement. I come back to where I started, you know, there are communities across our country and particularly on college campuses where there is real pain and angst and…while there is a right of of free speech and protest, I don’t believe there are spots on our campuses where virulent anti-Semitism or virulent anti-Muslim feelings should be allowed. I think that at some point that speech goes beyond the boundaries of protected free speech. I hope as well that within those those set of rules, though, if you break the law, there needs to be consequences. I mean, I saw the breakage of some of the windows and buildings at Columbia University; candidly, that reminded me of other times when protesters tried to take the law in their own hands. I would condemn that, I condemn this kind of breaking of the law. And I do worry about the notion of of these encampments in terms of, I know on some universities they’ve said well, maybe folks will just peacefully disband them. I don’t think that has proven to be the case yet. So I’m going to, again, try to take these on an individual basis. I do hope everyone, though, you know, if you do have overreaction from law enforcement, that sometimes can spiral the level of violence and actually rather than cutting down on protests, actually leads to spread of the protest…My hope is that the college presidents and administrations will be communicating with each other and try to show appropriate restraint. But again, when the law is broken, there needs to be consequences.
  • “I am more accepting of when a student body itself is protesting. But as we see even from the VCU example, when over half of the folks that were arrested were non students, that concerns me. I mean, 14 law enforcement officers were also hurt in the protest last night. I think there are additional protections for students rather than, and whether those full set of protections fully extend to you know, there’s a set of rules you agree to as a student, sometimes if you’re coming in from the outside…I think that raises a different set of issues. I’m going to again though look at these on an individual basis. There is a right to protest. There are rightful and understandable concerns about the war in Gaza and the 34,000 Palestinians that have been killed and the 2,500 plus Israelis that were brutally murdered on October 7th. I want… there to be allowed to be protest, but I also feel like when those protests interfere with the right of students to get an education, particularly as we go into exam week, that pushes the edge. And again, I’m going to come back to what I’ve been saying – you’ve got a right to protest, but if you break the law there are consequences, and particularly if you see as in the case of VCU the majority of the folks who were arrested were not even students, that raises an issue of concern to me.”

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