'Part of the American spirit': Arrested student denies campus Gaza protests are violent

Much has been said about the students whose protests have gripped America this past week.

Their cause has been framed in polarising ways. A violent Hamas-sympathising mob? Or peace activists striving for equality?

Within a frenzied spectrum of views and noise, one young student sat down with me for a conversation.

Aidan Doyle, 21, is a philosophy and jazz double major at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA).

He was arrested early on Thursday morning for being part of an encampment at the university.

He told Sky News he was shocked that the police arrested so many student protesters, despite not intervening in an attack on the protesters by a pro-Israeli group the day before.

He said his arrest had not deterred him from continuing his protest, which he likened to the Vietnam War demonstrations of the 1960s.

Mr Doyle rejected the notion, from President Biden, that the protests are not peaceful.

"Graffiti, putting posters up, that's all peaceful," he said, commenting on the president's statement from the White House.

"I also think that President Biden needs to actually take some introspection and realise that maybe the reason so many of these protests are happening is partially due to him."

Mr Doyle added: "Protests in general are part of the American spirit. They're part of being an American. And if we were to just stand around in circles and sing and dance, and pretend everything was fine, then nothing would change and nobody would care at all.

"Part of a protest is causing disruption and causing at least a minor level of chaos that is, again, not violent but that actually disrupts things."

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He denied any accusations of antisemitism, but conceded there is a spectrum of opinion within the movement.

"If you're going to criticise a movement, I think you have to look at the movement's goals and their mission, not what fringe members of the group say or do.

"You have to actually look at what we say, what the organisers say, and what is in the mainstream, and what our mission and our goal is: the peace and prosperity of the Palestinian people."

Asked if he believed in Israel's right to exist as a country, he said: "I think Jewish sovereignty is incredible. I think it's an amazing thing."

He added: "I think that if there is a country for Jewish people that protects the Jewish people, that is of utmost importance, especially with the vile and rampant antisemitism that exists across the world that I see every day and that I try and combat as much as possible.

"But doing that and then simultaneously repressing another group of people, dehumanising them and brutalising them, then the question of whether your state has the right to exist becomes secondary."