I’ve been following the campus unrest and street protests here in Philadelphia and across the nation, as pro-Hamas and anti-Israel protestors block traffic, occupy campus administration buildings and grounds, and fly Hamas flags and anti-Jew banners. 

As usual, the clever and satiric Babylon Bee has the best take on the events. The Bee reported that student protestors reeled back in horror as the police charged them with sticks – deodorant sticks. 

Here in Philadelphia, students at Temple University left their classes and marched with other protest groups all across the city, meeting up at City Hall on April 25th. A hundred or more pro-Hamas protestors marched through Center City, and they then marched to West Philly to Drexel University and on to the University of Penn’s campus where they finally set up an illegal encampment.

The protestors said the encampment was a symbol of pro-Hamas solidarity. The protestors demanded that the University of Penn disclose fully its investments as well as divest totally from Israeli companies.

Jewish students in Philadelphia and across the country are rightfully frightened, as some of the pro-Hamas protestors have threatened them physically. Many people see the pro-Hamas stance as a new burgeoning antisemitism in the United States.

I’m old enough to remember the anti-Vietnam War protests in the 1960s, when college campuses and city streets were filled with student protestors waving Viet Cong flags and burning American flags. There were illegal takeovers of campus administration buildings, vandalism, and clashes with police.

Films of the campus riots alternated with films from the fighting in South Vietnam on local and national TV news programs, and the newspapers carried these stories side by side in print.

In 1968, when I was a South Philadelphia High School (Southern) student, I skipped school on several occasions and took the subway from Snyder Avenue and rode uptown to Temple University. I stood on the sidelines behind the cops and watched the student radicals protest the Vietnam War.

My late older brother was then serving in the U.S. Army in Chu Lai in South Vietnam. According to his letters, the Viet Cong were launching rocket and mortar fire on Chu Lai daily, so seeing the student radicals waving Viet Cong flags angered me.      

The worst anti-war riots took place in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Nearly the whole country watched the TV nightly news in horror and disgust as the police and student protestors clashed.   

President Nixon later effectively ended the anti-Vietnam War movement simply by abolishing the draft. The big anti-war protests ended immediately, leaving one to conclude that many of the anti-war protestors were not so much against the war in Vietnam as they were against personally being involved in the war.

I attended Penn State University at State College, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1972 after I was separated from the U.S. Navy, having served on an aircraft carrier off the coast of North Vietnam in 1970-1971. Although the war was still going on in 1972, there were few anti-war protests worth noting. 

Years later, in 2000, I covered the Center City riots as a reporter during the Republican National Convention that selected George W. Bush to be the Republican presidential candidate.

On assignment for Counterterrorism magazine, I covered the street protests and the clashes between the protestors and the police. I recall standing five feet from several MOVE members who sat in the street and blocked traffic around five o’clock in the evening when hot and irate workers simply wanted to go home.

Even at the distance of five feet, I was repulsed by the strong barnyard smell coming from the MOVE people. I felt sorry for the poor cops who had to lift the MOVE people and carry them to a parked bus where they housed the arrested protestors. Above and beyond their call of duty, to be sure. 

The protestors included the Black Bloc, an anarchist group carrying black flags and dressed all in black, with black bandannas covering their faces. There was also the Clown Bloc anarchist group, along with other professional agitator groups. Local college students also joined the street protests. 

The protests became violent with protesters overturning trash dumpsters, vandalizing parked cars and buildings, and attacking the cops, including assaulting then-Police Commissioner John Timoney. Timoney was on a bike with another bike cop when they attempted to stop a small mob of protestors from trying to overturn a police patrol car. I witnessed a fight that ensued with Timoney and the other cop taking several blows, but they quickly dispersed the group and handcuffed and arrested three or four protestors.

Timoney had previously made the decision to not outfit the police in full riot gear, stating the riot gear was provocative. Instead, he had the police wear standard bike helmets and carry their Raleigh Mountain bikes sideways at chest level to barricade, ram, prod and push back protestors.

So, to me and people of my age, today’s radical students (and older non-student ringers) who support a violent and murderous terrorist group like Hamas is nothing new, as the students in the 1960s supported the Viet Cong, another violent, murderous terrorist group. And the student rioters in Philadelphia in 2000 supported violent anarchist groups.   

It seems to me that the student protestors then and now are pleased to have a cause in which they could feel important, gather in like-minded groups, and avoid the drudgery of attending class, studying, and writing papers. Marching, shouting slogans, and waving enemy flags and hate banners is a grand social activity for these misfits.

And getting arrested is a badge of honor for them, although they would just cry if they were truly treated as harshly as hardened criminals were. They would faint if they were actually locked up with gangbangers, murderers and other career criminals.

With apologies to Jonathan Swift, I have a modest proposal regarding the pro-Hamas protestors causing havoc on university campuses in Philadelphia, New York, and the rest of the country.

I propose that the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel and anti-Jew student protestors be arrested and forced to watch Hamas’s own videos of the horrific and brutal murders, rapes and kidnappings of Israeli defenseless men, women, children, and the elderly on October 7th. 

Then the students should be made to write a paper on why they support Hamas’s acts of brutality. 

But that would be unconstitutional, as being forced to watch the horrific deeds of Hamas, the terrorist group they claim to support, would be cruel and unusual punishment. 

Paul Davis, a Philadelphia writer and frequent contributor to Broad + Liberty, also contributes to Counterterrorism magazine and writes the “On Crime” column for the Washington Times. He can be reached at pauldavisoncrime.com.

One thought on “Paul Davis: Radical student protestors from the 1960s to today”

  1. Paul, it would not be unconstitutional for students to write a paper on exactly why they support HAMAS. including their rationale for defending the use of violence to support and broadcast their support. Perhaps, this should be used as a teaching moment at the high school/college level. To quote Yogi Berra; “it’s Deja Vue all over again.” I got home from my 13 months in Vietnam with the 1st Cavalry in October 1967 and immediately had to deal with a civilian population that showered me with contempt on my way from the West Coast to Pennsylvania. Navigating an employment scene that had no room from Vietnam vets and a housing market that would not sell to Vietnam vets. I was very absorbed trying to make a living for my family (a wife and young daughter) so I did not pay attention to what was going on as closely as I should have. While I am at it, I would like to propose that all those who participated in these current disturbances have any state or federal assistance terminated. Perhaps a dose of paying for college on their own would be a great life lesson.

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