Trump and Republicans line up to praise frat boys as they wade into campus Gaza protests

A Trump campaign featured video of fraternity protesters who appeared to make monkey noises towards a Black woman filming the protests, echoing longstanding racist tropes

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Saturday 04 May 2024 18:37 BST
Police clear US University protest encampments

For weeks, conservative circles have been describing the wave of protests against the Israel-Hamas war taking place across US college campuses as a disturbing aberration.

On Fox News, hosts claimed the student occupying campus quads were pro-Hamas and “entitled.”

On Newsmax, a spokesperson for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the protests “antisemitic,” “anti-American,” and “anti-Western overall.”

From outside Manhattan court, where’s he on trial for allegedly hiding hush money payments to bury affair allegations, Donald Trump blasted the demonstrations as a “disgrace.”

However, it seems these figures have coalesced around at least one kind of campus activist they can celebrate: fraternity brothers and counter-protesters seeking to push back against pro-Palestian students.

These counter-protesters have been portrayed as patriotic heroes defending campus from a Hamas beachhead. One Fox host suggested that “America’s frat boys” deserve the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

No one has leaned into this dynamic more than the Trump campaign.

The former president released a video on Friday mixing news footage of various protests from around the country with voiceovers from various conservative news personalities.

The ad starts out with a clip of fraternity brothers at the University of North Carolina who held up an American flag that was temporarily taken down and replaced with a Palestinian flag, along with commentary from Fox News host Jesse Waters, who can be heard saying, “Patriotic fraternity brothers stepped in and said, not today Hamas.”

The campaign spot later shows part of an exchange between rival protesters at the University of Mississippi that took place on Thursday.

The video cuts out just before one of the counter-protesters was seen appearing to hoot like a monkey and make mocking gestures towards a Black woman filming the protests, echoing longstanding racist tropes.

Stacey Spiehler, a University of Mississippi student who filmed the exchange, described the counter-protesters as a hostile crowd that surrounded the woman in the video.

“Counter-protesters were throwing things. I saw half a chicken parm sandwich on the ground, a carrot,” Ms Spiehler told The Independent. “She was brave, holding her own and had more intelligence and empathy in her little finger than that whole crowd. Whether or not you agree with her, she embodies UM.”

The incident at the conservative university echoed its larger history of racial tensions. In 1962, students rioted and attacked US marshals tasked with protecting James Meredith, the first Black man to attend the university.

As one commentator noted in The Washington Post, the seemed rivalry being set up — frat bros versus liberal agitators — also has echoes elsewhere in 1960s protest history. Radical students protesting the Vietnam War in 1968 at Columbia University dubbed more-conservative counter-protesters “the jocks.”

The Trump campaign aren’t the only ones celebrating counter-protesters against the anti-Israel student movement.

In a post Thursday on X, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves posted a video of counter-protesters drowning out pro-Palestinian activists by singing the national anthem, saying the scene, “Warms my heart.”

On a recent Fox News broadcast, Laura Ingraham interviewed one of the UNC students who held up the American flag, while dismissing pro-Palestinian activists as “make-believe warriors” and “dweebs who never really played a sport.”’

Meanwhile, a pair of political operatives with Republican ties created a GoFundMe in the name of the UNC students to fundraise for a “rager” of a party to celebrate them, which eventually raised $500,000.

Country singer John Rich, meanwhile, offered to perform a free concert “for the boys who protected the American flag at UNC.”

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