Tensions Rise at Ole Miss as Counter-Protesters Engage Pro-Palestine Supporters With Patriotic Songs

Pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the University of Mississippi took a negative turn on Thursday as at least 200 counter protesters taunted their fellow students with renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner and other tunes, eventually leading to the evacuation of students on the campus.

A group of roughly 50 to 60 pro-Palestinian protesters convened on the school’s Quad to demand the school’s divestment from Israel and protest the nation’s actions in Gaza following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas that resulted in the death of 1,139 Israelis and 240 taken hostage. Some 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza since, according to the Hamas-controlled media.

Within an hour of the protest beginning, protesters were met by the medley of 200 counter protesters who descended upon them and began throwing objects and shouting at them, the local media reports.

Video of the confrontation shows the large group of counter protesters singing the National Anthem, drowning out chants made by the pro-Palestine and anti-war protesters. Additional online footage shows a “physical altercation” as anti-war protesters can be heard shouting “Free, free Palestine.”

As tensions escalated between the two groups, campus police dispersed the crowd in front of the university’s School of Applied Sciences. Pro-Palestine protesters were then led inside the building by police, according to local reports.

Ole Miss has not released an official statement about the protests, but Jacob Battle, director of media relations for the university, confirmed that the protesters were evacuated on buses and would not elaborate on whether they were students, per the local media. The initial protest was organized by a group called UMiss for Palestine. (The university has said that it does not have direct investment with Israel, local media reports.

Protests at Ole Miss are the latest of dozens sweeping universities across the country as students voice their discontent with the country’s involvement in the Israel-Hamas war.

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves took to Twitter on Thursday to share his awareness of the university’s demonstrations, adding that local law enforcement was also aware of the protest.

“Campus police, City, County, and State assets are being deployed and coordinated,” Reeves said in the Thursday morning post. “We will offer a unified response with one mission: Peaceful protests are allowed and protected – no matter how outrageous those protesters’ views may seem to some of us. But unlawful behavior will not be tolerated. It will be dealt with accordingly. Law and order will be maintained!”

The Republican governor later posted a video of the counter protesters on the campus, saying that the footage “warms my heart.”