Has Garvey Unlocked an Election Path?

Candidate Calls Pro-Palestinian Student Protesters ‘Terrorists’

The former baseball star and Republican Senate rival to Adam Schiff sharply condemned the student activism that has roiled colleges around the nation and called USC student encampments an acts of terrorism. Nearly 100 demonstrators were arrested on trespassing charges.

By PILAR DE LA VEGA
SPECIAL TO THE LA INDEPENDENT

Senate candidate Steve Garvey, proclaiming his eternal allegiance for Israel, has called pro-Palestinian protesters who build encampments on college campuses “terrorists,” as more than 1,000 people have been arrested in the last two weeks at student-organized protests of Israel’s war effort in Gaza .
“What they’re saying is: they’re pro-Hamas,” Garvey, standing in front of Israeli flags at the Beverly Gardens Park, told a press conference in Los Angeles, “They’re pro-terrorists. They’re supporting terrorism.”
Flanked by Rabbi Chaim Mentz of Chabad of Bel Air and Israeli Special Operations veteran Aaron Cohen, Garvey called the protesters’ actions “terrorism disguised as free speech,” and said the students are “making a statement that they probably don’t really understand what it’s about.”
“How do you do this? You go to the soft underbellies of our society,” he said. “Now it’s the campuses, great institutions who all of a sudden are lacking leadership, who all of a sudden saying that one group under the disguise of free speech can attack another. It’s time for us to stand up.
“I stand for Israel yesterday, today and tomorrow. As allies, there [is] no greater ally than Israel. We stand with them in technology, innovation and materials. We can’t back away. For those that support a pro-Hamas demonstration, an attack on Israel, I say: Not on my leadership.”
“This is organized support of terrorism,” he said, adding that he believes in free speech, but arguing that interrupting classes and obstructing the opportunity to learn is terrorism.
He also challenged the media to “find out who are supporting these pro-terrorist groups. I’ll stand with you. I’ll support your free speech.”

Asked if he would support terrorism charges being brought against the students who are part of the encampments, Garvey replied: “They’re obstructing the natural flow of life on campus, and what they’re saying is they’re pro-Hamas. They’re pro-terrorist.” Upon further questioning, Garvey said “if it’s determined by the DAs, absolutely” regarding bringing terror charges against the students in the encampments.
“Let’s make a statement. Let’s be leaders,” Garvey said. “This is Los Angeles. This is California. Everyone looks to California for leadership; where is it?”
Garvey, a Republican, made the statements last week in Los Angeles about protesters at the University of Southern California — a day after police arrested almost 100 pro-Palestinian protesters on campus on trespassing charges during a largely peaceful demonstration a day earlier.
Garvey also called on the federal government to withhold funding from universities and strip faculty members of tenure if they support the protesters.
The former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres All-Star has said he supports Israel’s right to defend itself in the war until Hamas is destroyed.
Garvey also said in an interview with Fox News that if he’s elected to the Senate he would push for Ivy League colleges and universities to appear before Congress to testify about their failure to protect their Jewish students.
“At this time, next year, as a sitting U.S. senator, I would call to have committees that will talk to these presidents and leadership and ask why they haven’t protected their students,” he said. “And if they can’t protect them, let’s talk about affecting them with federal funds and start to take back the federal funds.
“If you’re not going to protect these Americans that are on your campus, then you’re going to have to make a decision on what’s important to you.
“What’s happening on campuses is against the law. There’s an attack physically, mentally and spiritually on these Jewish students. We need to stand up now more than ever.”

Garvey also said university presidents should “take back their campuses” and “form a protective environment for these students that are being attacked.”
When asked if the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office plans to bring those charges, spokesperson Venusse Dunn said: “When law enforcement presents a case to our office, we apply the law to the facts of each case and determine what charges, if any, are appropriate.”
Making a rare public appearance after the March 5 primary, Garvey claimed that the protesters supported terrorists, calling the USC protest “terrorism disguised as free speech” without pointing to any specific language used by demonstrators.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democrat from Burbank who advanced from the March primary with Garvey, has also supported Israel in the war. Schiff was reluctant to call for a ceasefire for months, but supported President Joe Biden’s call last month for a ceasefire tied to a larger deal. Schiff also voted alongside most Democrats to send $26 billion in aid to Israel last week.
Schiff’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry for comment on Garvey’s comments. But it did this evening send a statement about the campus protests.
“Jewish students need to both be safe and feel safe on their college campuses — but that will never be the case as long as universities allow hateful, antisemitic rhetoric, or even violence, to be tolerated,” Schiff said in the statement. “The participation of faculty or administrative personnel in antisemitic demonstrations is even more malignant… .I stand firm in condemning antisemitism in all its forms and affirm the need to ensure the safety and inclusion of all students on campus.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked about the USC arrests at a press conference today, said his office is “very mindful of what’s going on at the campuses and want to maintain people’s rights to protest — at the same time do so peacefully, without any hate.”

The protest at USC was part of the latest nationwide wave of student-led protests at public and private colleges and universities as the humanitarian crisis worsens in Gaza during the Israeli offensive in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed 1,200 people in Israel. For months, demonstrators have been calling for a permanent ceasefire in the war that has now killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza.
At the University of Southern California, tension has been brewing for more than a week after administrators canceled the commencement speech by valedictorian Asna Tabassum, after a pro-Israel group deemed her social media post of a pro-Palestinian link antisemitic, which she disputed. Last week, USC canceled its main-stage commencement entirely.
Students built tents where the commencement was supposed to take place, with some holding up “Free Palestine” signs. The university’s Hillel Foundation, a Jewish organization, condemned some of the chants as antisemitic, while the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles, a Muslim advocacy group, criticized the university for a “violent crackdown” and “use of excessive forces” against free speech.
Some students are pressuring their university leaders to divest from Israel and defense contractors that sell weapons to Israel. The demonstrations sparked clashes between police officers and protesters and led to arrests of activists across campuses, with some Columbia University students filing a federal civil rights complaint against law enforcement.
The First Amendment protects speeches even if they sound extremely “menacing” or “threatening,” according to Michelle Deutchman, executive director of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California.
Garvey’s campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry for evidence supporting claims of protesters’ ties to terrorism, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation defines as involving unlawful use of violence to “intimidate or coerce” the government or civilians to advance a political or social agenda.

Includes reporting from the Jewish Journal, CalMatters, Fox News and Politico.

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