Wearing Masks During the Gaza Protests

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Protesters occupying Hamilton Hall resupply via pulley system, at Columbia University on April 30, 2024.Credit…Bing Guan for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “In an Age of Doxxing, Some Protesters Choose Anonymity” (news article, May 3):

As a former activist with a proud résumé of progressive civil disobedience and protest from the 1970s through the 1990s, I sympathize with the energy and idealistic enthusiasm of the student protesters this year.

However, I find it inconceivable that so many have chosen to be masked. The anonymity of their anti-Israel expression seems to me far too close to the behavior of a mob. It is also anathema to the concept of a free exchange of ideas that the modern postsecondary educational experience is supposed to be all about.

If these students intend to accomplish anything while they are protesting, they need to put their real identities to the challenge and defend their ideas.

Or perhaps in being unmasked, these anonymous radicals will suddenly realize that what some of them are advocating, the elimination of the modern state of Israel, is entirely inconceivable.

Carl D. Birman
Albany, N.Y.

To the Editor:

This article addresses the issue of masking by pro-Palestine (and a few pro-Israel) demonstrators at college campuses, pointing out that students fear suspension, doxxing and other threats if their identities become known.

The article compares this generation of students to earlier generations of activists, of which I was a member, who “gained their moral force in part by putting their words on record and their futures in jeopardy for a larger cause.” Indeed we did, and we did it to protest the war in Vietnam and to support civil rights in the face of serious police violence.

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