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Dueling pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel demonstrations hit Clemson

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson University on Saturday joined the growing list of colleges across the country that have experienced pro-Palestinian protests on their campuses.

Around 35 students and Upstate South Carolina residents gathered at Sikes Hall at 9 a.m. to show support for the Palestinian cause, prompting a group to later emerge hoisting American flags and pro-Israel signs.

The group flying Palestinian flags and holding “Free Palestine” signs continuously chanted “From the River to the Sea,” “Israel and the USA, number one terrorist in the world today” and “Joe Biden, you can’t hide, you are funding genocide.”

The group’s organizer and senior Clemson student Abigail Friedman told The College Fix her group will remain on campus from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day until the university discloses its Israeli investments.

“We want them to disclose any investments — if they are investing into Israel and into the genocide,” Friedman said in an interview.

She also said the group is hoping to put pressure on the state legislature.

“South Carolina has sent a large number to Israel, and that’s another reason we’re here is to put pressure on South Carolina. I don’t want my tax funds going to a genocide,” she said.

Like other schools south of the Mason-Dixon line, such as the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi, Clemson joined the ranks of campuses with both pro-Israel and pro-America counter-protests.

Some of the students and community members who gathered in response to the Palestinian demonstration chanted “USA, USA, USA” and “America stands with Israel.”

Both Clemson University police officers and city of Clemson police officers were present.

Mark Burns, a Donald Trump-endorsed congressional candidate for South Carolina’s third district, attended the counter-protest and told The Fix his group is on the “side of God.”

“We stand with Israel number one. This is South Carolina. This is God’s country,” Burns said in an interview. “And whether you’re our Jew or Christian, we stand together as united under the understanding that Israel is God’s chosen people. The nation of Israel is God’s chosen people’s land.”

As cars drove by the protest, many honked their horns in support of the pro-Israel group, waved their hands out of their windows, and flew American flags out of their cars.

Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been ongoing since October, Friedman said she organized the protest to take place after Clemson’s last official day of the semester because recently “the last school in Gaza was bombed.”

“So they’re now without a right to education, which is an international right that everyone has. And they’re just being stripped of that right,” she said.

Friedman, who is Jewish, declined to comment on the terrorist group Hamas’ role in the conflict.

As a Jew, she said she cannot “sit by while people are being murdered.”

“The chant ‘from the river to the sea’ means Palestine will be free,” Friedman said. “It is just saying that Palestinians will be able to live in harmony, they will be given the same rights, they won’t live in an apartheid state, as they do now.”

Clemson is now home to one of many pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the country. Other protests, such as ones at Columbia University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and the University of Arizona, have turned violent and required police intervention, something Friedman does not agree with.

“I don’t necessarily approve of the police’s reaction. I think it has been very harsh, has been similar to what we’ve seen in, like, 2020 with the BLM protests,” she said. “I think using rubber bullets on peaceful protests is ridiculous. The protests were peaceful up until police went in.”

When told that the organizer of the Clemson pro-Palestinian demonstration is a Jewish student, Burns said, “that’s like being a Christian who stands behind same-sex marriage or abortion” and that “it doesn’t make sense, but that’s her right to be Jewish and to support the death of our own people.”

This week, the Biden administration said it was considering welcoming Palestinians to the U.S. as refugees, an idea Burns called “a danger to America.”

“To have more of people who Hamas can easily hide and be mixed into this group that is speaking Death to America is preposterous,” Burns said. “To see that Joe Biden wants to bring in more refugees, I think, is a danger to America.”

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IMAGES: Blake Mauro / For The College Fix

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Blake Mauro -- Clemson University