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After student protest at U of A, Alabama Senators support new legislation

After a pro-Palestine protest at the University of Alabama, Alabama’s senators cosponsored a bill restricting student debt forgiveness for protestors.

Sen. Katie Britt and Sen. Tommy Tuberville
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In recent weeks, Alabama Senators Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville have been prominent critics of both President Joe Biden’s policy regarding the Israel-Hamas war and the recent wave of student protests.

On April 17, students at Columbia University set up an encampment that was quickly dispersed by New York City police; students at universities across the country began to put together their own demonstrations and encampments. Some of the most notable copycat encampments have been located at George Washington University, The City College of New York, and the University of California San Diego.

On May 1, hundreds of students at the University of Alabama gathered to protest the United States’ support of Israel, accusing the University of supporting a “state-sponsored massacre of Palestinians” through its connections to defense contractor Lockheed Martin. They called for the University to break off connections with the company, including by renaming Hewson Hall, which was named after former Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.

In response to the recent wave of student protests, on May 5, both Britt and Tuberville cosponsored a bill introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, dubbed “The No Bailouts for Campus Criminals Act.”

The bill would prevent anyone convicted of a federal or state-level offense committed at a protest at a university or college from having their student loans forgiven.

Biden’s campaign promise to forgive student debt has been a frequent target of Republican critiques. It is frequently argued that forgiving student loans would be unfair to both college graduates who paid off their student loans and those who chose not to attend college.

In a press release, Cotton said Americans who paid off their student debt “shouldn’t have to pay off the loans of Hamas sympathizers shutting down and defacing campuses.”

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However, no one who attended the protest at the University of Alabama has been arrested or charged, so the bill seems unlikely to affect students who participated in the May 1 protest if it were passed today.

Britt and Tuberville’s support of the No Bailouts for Campus Criminals Act is only the latest signifier of their committed support for Israel in the ongoing war and their distrust toward pro-Palestinian protestors and government action.

On May 3, Britt and Tuberville joined with fellow Republicans in the Senate to condemn Biden’s consideration of accepting Palestinian refugees from Gaza. And in April, Britt signed onto a letter written by Cotton telling the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, “Target Israel and we will target you.”

On Monday, Britt tweeted in remembrance of Holocaust Remembrance Day. She wrote that Americans’ commitment to never repeating the horrors of the Holocaust is “being tested like never before, and not just overseas.”

Britt ended the tweet asking her followers to “recommit to standing strongly against antisemitism, and standing with Jewish brothers and sisters at home and abroad.”

Chance Phillips is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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