Democratic rep says Biden focused on ensuring ‘consequences are proportionate’ for student protesters

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Rep. Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.), a surrogate for President Biden’s reelection campaign, said on Sunday Biden is focused on ensuring “proportionate” consequences for student protesters.

In an interview on NewsNation’s “The Hill on Sunday,” Chris Stirewalt asked McClellan how Biden was navigating the opposing tensions on his base, with some embracing the student protesters’ viewpoints and others raising concerns about violations of the law and incidents of antisemitism.

“I think the President is focused on striking the right balance between protecting the free speech and right of the students to assemble peacefully with enforcement of the laws,” McClellan said, adding, “When laws are broken, there needs to be consequences.”

“But he’s also focused on making sure those consequences are proportionate. He’s also very focused on making sure that the reason for the protests is resolved, and that is working to resolve the conflict in the Middle East,” she said.

McClellan’s comments echo President Biden’s remarks last week, when he said in a prepared statement, “In moments like this, there are always those who rush in to score political points. But this isn’t a moment for politics. It’s a moment for clarity. So let me be clear … Violent protest is not protected. Peaceful protest is.”

“Destroying property is not a peaceful protest, it’s against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduation. None of this is a peaceful protest, threatening people, intimidating people,” Biden said, adding, “Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder.”

McClellan also drew a comparison between Biden’s response and what she speculated would be former President Trump’s. She referenced reports that Trump asked authorities during the George Floyd demonstrations if they could “just shoot them in the legs or something,” according to an excerpt from former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s book.

“But I would point out that the former president, when he was dealing with protests in cities and college campuses, asked his Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff if they can just shoot the protesters,” McClellan said. “And I think he has made clear if he were president right now, he would not strike that balance. He would err on the side of authoritarian, overstepping and squashing free speech and assembly.”

Reached for comment, a spokesperson for Trump said he has “never heard of” the Virginia congresswoman before.

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