Governor: Peaceful protests ‘protected’ on Mississippi campus no matter how outrageous they may seem; unlawful behavior will not be tolerated

Published 5:43 pm Thursday, May 2, 2024

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves said peaceful protests on the University of Mississippi campus were “allowed and protected,” but that unlawful behavior will not be tolerated.

Reeves’ comments on social media were in response to a protest organized on the Ole Miss campus Thursday, where approximately 30 people gathered to protest Israel’s attacks on Gaza and demanding the school’s divestment from companies linked to Israel’s military campaign.

“Mississippi law enforcement is also aware. And they are prepared. Campus police, City, County, and State assets are being deployed and coordinated. We will offer a unified response with one mission: Peaceful protests are allowed and protected — no matter how outrageous those protesters’ views may seem to some of us,” Reeves said. “But unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. It will be dealt with accordingly. Law and order will be maintained!”

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The protestors were met with hundreds of counter-protestors and more onlookers as students spilled out of their classes to gather to watch the protest behind the J.D. Williams Library.

The protest was one of hundreds being held nationwide in recent days.

The student protestors were calling for the university to stop funding companies that profit or engage in Israel’s ongoing military campaign and occupation, as well as calling for a cease-fire and the end to “genocide.”

The counter-protestors shouted insults at the protestors, telling them to go “home.” Some held Trump 2020 banners and American flags. One counter-protestor had a “Come and Take it” flag, while another flew a “Don’t Tread on Me” banner. One student said, “They bombed us first.”

The protestors held signs that said, “Stop the genocide,” “Jesus was a Palestine,” and “Cut all ties with Israel.”

The protest was scheduled from 12:30 to 2 p.m.; however, it ended about 30 minutes early after counter-protestors started throwing food, water bottles and drinks at the protestors.

University police set up barricades separating the protestors and counter-protestors. While there were a few tense moments when people from either side got too close to each other, there were no arrests made during the protest.

Reeves’ comments echoed Pres. Joe Biden’s comments made during a press conference Thursday morning.

President Biden defended the protests but emphasized the importance of the rule of law and denounced hate speech.

“We’ve all seen images and they put to the test two fundamental American principles,” Biden said. “The first is the right to free speech and for people to peacefully assemble and make their voices heard. The second is rule of law. Both must be upheld.”