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Ohio's Democratic U.S. Senator: campus protestors shouldn't be violent, laws must be enforced

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) talks to a supporter at his campaign kickoff in Columbus on Dec. 15, 2023.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) talks to a supporter at his campaign kickoff in Columbus on Dec. 15, 2023.

Ohio’s Democratic US Senator is being careful with his comments about pro-Palestine demonstrations at Ohio’s colleges and universities, while saying they shouldn’t be violent. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is walking a fine line over protests supporting Palestinians in the Israel-Hamas war as he faces a tough re-election bid.

Brown said twice in a call with reporters that violence is wrong, though his Republican opponent Bernie Moreno has blasted Brown as endorsing violence by activists.

“Anti-Semitism and hate and violence are unacceptable on campuses," Brown said. "Students want to make their voices heard; they need to do it in a way that's non-violent. They need to do it in a way that doesn't spew hatred. And the laws need to be enforced.”

Brown didn’t criticize law enforcement response, which some demonstrators have said has been violent. That includes the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, the Franklin County House and Senate delegation and the Jewish Caucus, which issued a statement calling out "the unnecessary force that was used on the students and demonstrators, including an elected member of the Ohio House of Representatives (Rep. Munira Abdullahi) who sustained minor injuries."

"I don't speak for them and they don't speak for me," Brown said.

Brown also pointed out the students’ demand that universities sell off investments in companies connected to Israel can’t happen under a 2016 state law.

When asked what he'll do if the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act that's expected to clear the U.S. House comes to the Senate, Brown didn't commit to anything, saying he will review the bill because he hasn't seen it yet.

Moreno issued a statement after the comments were reported:
"Sherrod Brown has made it clear that he stands with the illegal encampments and anti-Israel demonstrators wreaking havoc on college campuses in support of Hamas. Ohioans cannot trust him to stand for law and order."

Brown's comments came in his weekly call with reporters. He also discussed a bipartisan anti-trafficking effort that was part of a $94 billion foreign aid bill signed last week that includes money for Ukraine, Israel and Gaza and also bans TikTok. The FEND Off Fentanyl act declares international trafficking of fentanyl is a national emergency, requires cartels involved in international trafficking of fentanyl to be sanctioned and allows forfeited money and property to be used for law enforcement. Moreno said he supported the aid for Israel but would have opposed the larger bill, which Democrats characterized as opposing the crackdown on fentanyl.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at
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