Jake Tapper Confronts NY Mayor Eric Adams Over Columbia Protests: ‘Is That Hate Speech or Is That Protected Free Speech?’ | Video

CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Monday, “Where is the line?” between the right to free speech and the need for public safety on college campuses. Their conversation followed clashes between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups at multiple colleges.

Columbia University canceled in-person classes on Monday and tensions remained high after last week’s arrest of more than 100 demonstrators. The students camped out on campus to ask for a ceasefire in Gaza and for the university to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Tapper began by noting that most of the college protests have been peaceful ones and that protests haven’t been confined to campuses alone.

He asked Adams, “Do you think Columbia is doing enough to protect its students, especially its Jewish students? And do you worry that sending in NYPD might actually inflame matters?”

Adams noted, “I’ve participated in protests throughout my life and particularly [against] South Africa, calling for the dismantling of apartheid. That is one of the fundamental rights we hold dear as Americans, the right to protest.”

The mayor said that some of the “vile” antisemitic comments Tapper quoted “on the surface are not illegal, but if you use it to harass someone, we’re going to take appropriate action to stop them from taking place, and we will go on private property for imminent threat.”

“Free speech is an important part of being an American. Where is the line?” Tapper asked. “For example, I’ve seen video of somebody at the Gaza encampment at Columbia standing up and talking about how great Oct. 7’s Hamas attacks on Israel was and calling the Hamas terrorists ‘freedom fighters.’ Is that hate speech? Or is that protected free speech? Where do you come down on that?”

Adams added, “Clearly, I could feel the duality of this moment. I understand the pain that is playing out in Israel and in Gaza at this time.” He mentioned that it was similar to the 1950s when Black students had to be escorted on campuses in Little Rock, Arkansas, “because they were afraid for their lives. And that is what I see when I see Jewish students are going through this at this moment.”

The mayor stated, “There is no place for hate in this city. I don’t care if it’s antisemitism, Islamophobia, Anti-Sikhism, we don’t have a place for that.”

Arrests of student protesters were also made at Yale, the Associated Press reported on Monday, while Harvard restricted access to Harvard Yard. Pro-Palestinian encampments have also begun at the University of Michigan, New York University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The University of Southern California has tried to grapple with the larger issue of the Israel-Hamas conflict after canceling the planned commencement speech from Muslim valedictorian Asna Tabassum. A petition begun by the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) gained more than 41,000 signatures in 48 hours. A separate petition on Change.org currently has just over 2,000 signatures.

You can watch Tapper and Adams’ conversation below:

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