‘Mike You Suck’: Columbia Students Let Loose on Speaker Johnson

Reuters/David Dee Delgado
Reuters/David Dee Delgado

NEW YORK — House Speaker (R-LA) Mike Johnson trekked to Columbia University’s New York City campus on Wednesday—and was immediately greeted with a chorus of boos.

The crowd loudly heckled and booed Johnson as he approached a podium and launched into his speech, railing against “antisemites” who “gnash their teeth and demand to wipe the State of Israel off the map and attack our innocent Jewish students.”

Moments after making that declaration, a loud chant broke out of “we can’t hear you,” to which Johnson responded, “Enjoy your free speech.”

Over screams from the crowd, Johnson pushed forward to rail against pro-Palestinian protesters.

“Things have gotten so out of control that the school has canceled in-person classes and now they’ve come up with this hybrid model, where they will discriminate against Jewish students. They are not allowed to come to class anymore for fear of their lives,” he said. “And it’s detestable, as Columbia has allowed these lawless agitators and radicals to take over.”

At the end of his speech, Johnson vowed to call Joe Biden “and share with him what we have seen with our own two eyes and demand that he take action there.”

Protesters gather in the center of Columbia University ahead of an afternoon visit from House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Protesters gather in the center of Columbia University ahead of an afternoon visit from House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Pilar Melendez/The Daily Beast

“If this is not contained quickly and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard. We have to bring order to these campuses,” he threatened. “We cannot allow this to happen around the country.”

The arrest of more than 100 students last week has done little to deter protesters from once again taking over the heart of campus—installing a second encampment this week in the same area where NYPD officers raided and destroyed an initial one Thursday.

That police raid was ordered by the university’s president, Nemat Shafik, who’s come under fire from pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protesters alike. On Wednesday, Johnson demanded that Shafik should resign “if she can not immediately bring order to this chaos.”

Johnson and other speakers, which included Republican politicians from New York, repeatedly mentioned violence against Jewish students, though no such violence has been reported at Columbia.

The protests have derailed the final weeks of the university’s spring semester. Just after a prominent university rabbi this weekend urged Jewish students to leave campus and stay home, citing alleged threats against Jews by demonstrators, Shafik announced that all classes would have a virtual option indefinitely. Some protesters, like the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), were suspended by Columbia and removed from their dorms.

No Dorm or Dining Hall: Ilhan Omar’s Daughter Recounts Protest Arrest

Despite the raucous scenes of police cracking down on protesters going viral from the week, the Columbia quad was largely calm Wednesday as students weathered a drizzle of rain waiting for Johnson to appear. There were no sustained chants from the protesters’ encampment, which is nestled on a square of green grass between the journalism building, student center, and Butler Library, as there had been at the peak of protests last week.

The encampment itself appeared to be highly organized by Wednesday, with two security guards standing watch and other organizers, some wearing masks and a keffiyeh, checking each person who entered to ensure they were indeed students. Also present was a first-aid tent and another designated for Columbia alumni.

One undergraduate student who spoke to The Daily Beast said she could care less that Johnson had come to Manhattan because “we are focused on bigger issues at hand.”

NYU Claims a Dramatic Development Led to Arrests at Anti-Israel Protest

That sentiment appeared to be matched by others on campus. Johnson didn’t appear to be a massive pull among students—just minutes before he appeared, a crowd of just 60 people, including journalists, had gathered.

There was still some interest, however. A 19-year-old student, who asked to be identified only as Alyssa, told The Daily Beast, “I just want to hear what he has to say, you know? Bold he came here.”

For others, Johnson’s arrival was a total shock. About an hour before the House Speaker addressed the crowd, a student walked up to the scrum and questioned what everyone was waiting for. “Mike Johnson!∏ someone yelled back, to which the newcomer responded, “Who?”

“The Speaker of the House. Republican,” another answered.

“Oh, why?” the newcomer quipped. “That’s random.”

Protesters hang up signs at Columbia University ahead of an afternoon visit from House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Protesters hang up signs at Columbia University ahead of an afternoon visit from House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Pilar Melendez/The Daily Beast

After Johnson’s speech, the crowd lingered and chatted about their chants. They dissected which ones may have gotten under Johnson’s skin the most.

“I bet the one about him being ugly wasn’t fun,” one mused. Another told The Daily Beast that Johnson’s rant was “embarrassing.”

Others shared their displeasure over the crowd’s hostile attitude, however. Next to the group reminiscing on their insults, three students fumed about the “lack of decorum” the crowd expressed.

“It was embarrassing, we’re an Ivy,” one said.

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