BARR: Columbia University Took Action Against Student Violators. Will Alvin Bragg, DOJ And The FBI?

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Forgive me if I do not view student agitators vandalizing buildings at Columbia University and other universities across the country as an existential threat to America. The goings on do represent a serious problem, but one that can be dealt with successfully if — and this is a big “if” — done quickly, forcefully, consistently and in coordination with the federal government.

In terms of the students, we’ve seen such behavior before (recall April 1968, if you will) and we’ll almost assuredly see it again – bored students nearing the end of the school year, along with assorted other troublemakers, seizing on an issue likely few of them truly understand and making unreasonable and implausible demands on the universities.

Damaging school property, holding hostages and resisting lawful efforts to be removed from trespassing on Columbia’s and other schools’ properties, are wrong and worthy of serious condemnation and significant legal punishment (sooner rather than later). 

But let’s keep it in perspective. Take a deep breath, step back and consider the student-centric demonstrations at numerous universities, including Columbia and even my undergraduate alma mater, the formerly conservative University of Southern California (USC), for what they are — not the tolling of the “Doomsday Clock” by a bunch of spoiled students, but rather a serious but manageable incidence of organized chaos against civil society and American public policies by individuals and groups outside the education arena. 

Viewing the student demonstrators as so powerful and feared as to present an existential challenge to the government of the United States will result in overreaction and almost certain long-term escalation and strengthening of the adversarial elements behind the violence. 

Overestimating your adversaries actually emboldens them.

Addressing the obviously well-organized demonstrations as serious but beatable through swift, tough and consistent responses by the institutions and by law enforcement, sends the right message — that the adults remain in charge and will defend their interests and institutions, but without exhibiting such fear of the protestors that elevates them to a level of power and prestige to which they are not entitled.

It took less than 24 hours for Columbia University authorities to call in the NYPD to forcibly rid Hamilton Hall of the dozens of law-breaking student demonstrators. This was a far swifter response to the takeover than the week that elapsed 56 years ago in April 1968 between the time students upset over America’s involvement in Vietnam (and, yes, carrying banners supporting North Vietnam, a country with which we were engaged in a bloody conflict at the time) decided to occupy Hamilton Hall, and NYPD forcibly removing them. 

At least in this instance, Columbia learned from its own history.

Classes are now ended, summer break has started and hopefully the students will stand down and consider doing what students are by definition supposed to do — study. Even more to be hoped, however, is that University administrators will follow through and press charges against those students — and others — who  violated not only university policies but criminal laws. 

It is, however, highly questionable whether Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who so eagerly has pursued former President Donald Trump for six-year old misdemeanor false document filings, will actually prosecute individuals at Columbia University who committed far more serious and felonious violations. Have to hold our breath on that one.

More important than what Mr. Bragg does, is whether the U.S. Department of Justice seriously investigates what appears to be a coordinated, multi-state (if not multi-national) effort to destabilize U.S. government policies in the Middle East by funding and fomenting disruptions, including violence, on American college campuses. 

For example, where did the money come from that provided all those tents that sprang up on campuses from New York to Los Angeles? And what are the sources of the millions of dollars filling the coffers of pro-Palestine student-oriented organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)? What might be the connections between that “student” group and American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and Hamas? 

Members of the media are asking such questions. These are the far more serious queries than worrying about the sensitivities of the Little Darlings using their parents’ money to break windows and doors at expensive colleges. Are U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray seriously investigating such matters? They sure should be.

Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.