America, land of the free, home of the brave. The place where democracy and civil liberties ebb and flow freely, highly, and mightily like the waves of Honolulu Bay in Hawaii onto every citizen as the United States Constitution projects. While the Founding Fathers debated what independence from the Crown would look like and how to ensure independence in a way that would protect citizens of the thirteen colonies, it is evident that these protections are in serious danger.

In this country that declares certain truths to be evident, but lopsided in scope, the democracy experiment that in many ways succeeded, is under attack. Speaking out and speaking truth to the established power is for the people and by the people of these United States. Free speech is being vilified and criminalized by the elite, law enforcement, and the media. This is truly the case, and it is happening across the country in real time. College students are peacefully protesting the United States complicit participation in the genocide of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza by Israeli armed forces and their individual places of higher learning institutions that have a fiscal investment in Israel.

These students have requested a conversation regarding divestment with the board of trustees of these col- leges and universities, which in some cases has been denied, hence the subsequent protest and sit ins, or tent ins. The response of the board of trustees and the presidents of the institutions that have refused to even hear the concerns of their students has resulted in the massive fallout that has occurred nationwide.

What the country witnessed last week at Columbia University was tragic. The NYPD dressed in full riot gear entered Hamilton Hall, forcibly removed protesting students, and concerned faculty from the premises and placed them under arrest. The president of Columbia University, Minouche Shafik, cited that the campus had to be cleared for the upcoming commencement ceremony. So instead of chairing a conversation with Columbia’s students about divesting from Israel, just a conversation of acknowledgement of their fears and concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, this was the final decision. Armed law enforcement unleashed on young adults for exercising their Constitutional rights to freely congregate and protest. Days later, Shafik would cancel the 2024 commencement ceremony which only magnified the ire of MAGA Republicans like Rep. Elise Stefanik and House Majority Leader Mike Johnson who are now calling for the Columbia Board of Trustees to fire her.

Meanwhile on the campuses of the University of South Florida in Tampa last week, campus law enforcement and the Hillsborough County Sheriff department threatened to use tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protestors if they did not leave the campus. When the student protestors refused, law enforcement deployed tear gas on the students creating the chaos and mayhem that the university claimed was happening on campus, which was not the case. Video of the incident is heartbreaking and clearly does not indicate that such action was warranted. When one dissects the way certain colleges and universities have chosen to address the protests or are now in progress on their campuses reveals one central theme: a desire to silence the powerless by millionaire and billionaire investors seated on the board of trustees of these institutions. The halls of higher learning have increasingly become earmarked for profit. Corporations, investment firms, and other financial institutions all have a hefty monetary stake in higher education, and therefore with the steadily climbing rates of tuition yearly, these modernday financial barons are earning tremendous profits and returns on their investments. It is to Wall Street that universities like Columbia and the University of South Florida are beholden, and not the students that they are tasked to enrich with knowledge each semester.

It is the evolution of higher education from academia centered to for profit based that seeks to extinguish or neutralize campus protests. Nothing must interfere with the institution that makes millionaires, billionaires. That is why instead of allowing peaceful protests to occur on campuses such as Columbia University, the University of South Florida and the University of California-San Diego, the board of trustees would rather send in law enforcement in riot gear to tear gas, bulldoze, harass, and beat student protestors and their concerned faculty members. Instead of facilitating dialogue, potential deadly force wielded by armed legal terrorists are unleashed on the powerless who have chosen to speak up in defense of the powerless. To be accurate and historically honest, America has always had a problem with peaceful protest in some shape, form, or manner. If the protest goes directly against White supremacy or could prevent the continuous flow of money, which funds White supremacy, it’s a problem for the establishment or the status quo.

This is not about who’s right or who’s wrong in Palestine and Israel. In America, it’s all about money. If in some way a protest does not directly attack the foundations of white supremacy, it’s a well sanctioned one. Remember Charlottesville? Or Wilmington, North Carolina, anyone?