Speaker Mike Johnson booed at Columbia University as he calls for president to quit unless pro-Palestine protests quelled

House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia University amid ongoing pro-Palestine protests to call for the university's president to resign and to address Jewish students.

He called the protests "disgusting" and "unnecessary" ahead of his visit. The day before his visit, the UN issued a report that it had found "mass graves" in Gaza, where Palestinians — including women, the elderly, and the wounded — had been found dead. Some of the remains allegedly had their hands bound.

Mr Johnson arrived to a chorus of boos and consistent shouts from protesters, including chants of "we can't hear you."

He said Israeli and Jewish students would "never stand alone" and said the protesters were supporting terrorists and "gnashing their teeth" at the existence of Israel.

Mr Johnson called the protesters "lawless agitators" and characterised all of the pro-Palestine protests across US campuses as "antisemitic”.

At one point, he stopped his speech due to ongoing chants and said "enjoy your free speech".

Mike Johnson was repeatedly booed as he spoke at Columbia University (AFP via Getty Images)
Mike Johnson was repeatedly booed as he spoke at Columbia University (AFP via Getty Images)

He said he met with Jewish students at the campus who described being harassed and intimidated for their faith and, for some, their support of Israel.

Anti-Zionist Jewish students have joined with pro-Palestine protesters for the ongoing demonstrations.

Mr Johnson called on Columbia University President Minouche Shafik to resign for her "failure," in his estimation, to protect Jewish students on campus.

“We just can’t allow this kind of hatred and antisemitism to flourish on our campuses, and it must be stopped in its tracks. Those who are perpetrating this violence should be arrested. I am here today, joining my colleagues and calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos,” Mr Johnson said.

Pro-Palestinian supporters rally outside Columbia University on April 23 (Getty Images)
Pro-Palestinian supporters rally outside Columbia University on April 23 (Getty Images)

The House Speaker said she should step down unless she could immediately end the protests on campus.

He was met with a loud chorus of boos after calling for her resignation.

When asked for his message to the campus protesters, he told them to “go back to class and stop the nonsense”.

He told reporters that he planned to call Joe Biden after his visit to demand executive action to address the ongoing campus protests across the country. He went so far as to threaten endorsing the use of the National Guard to break up the protests.

“My intention is to call President Biden after we leave here and share with him what we have seen with our own two eyes and demand that he take action, there is executive authority that would be appropriate. If this is not contained quickly, and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard,” Mr Johnson said.

As he was leaving, one protester could be heard shouting above the crowd “get the f*** out of here, boy”.

Protesters at Columbia were not the only ones telling Mr Johnson to go back to Washington; New York Governor Kathy Hochul told him to stay put before his visit on Wednesday.

“I think politicizing this and bringing the entourage to put a spotlight on this is only adding to the division,” Ms Hochul said according to Politico. “A speaker worth the title should really be trying to heal people and not divide them, so I don’t think it adds to anything.”

Protests occurred at numerous college campuses across the US on Wednesday. Mr Johnson threatened that Congress would cut federal financing to state-funded universities if the protests continued.

Police clashed with protesters at the University of California in Los Angeles, and Governor Greg Abbott sent Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to quash a pro-Palestine demonstration at the University of Austin. According to local reports in Texas, at least 10 protesters have been detained on Wednesday.