UW President Jay Rothman says the protest encampments at Madison and Milwaukee “will ultimately be gone” but declined to give a specific timeline or course of action as talks are expected to continue this week between protesters and UW-Madison officials.

“I’m not going to speculate as to when that will occur and how those resolutions will come to pass, but, you know, the encampments are illegal, and ultimately, they will be gone,” Rothman said on WISN’s “UpFront,” which is produced in partnership with WisPolitics. “I’m supportive of the conversation. I think dialogue is always important. From my perspective, we want the encampments to be removed. I mean, they are illegal, and they should come down. It’s as simple as that. And to the extent those conversations can lead to that result, that would be a good thing.”

Police and protesters clashed Wednesday in Madison when officers moved in to remove the tents, but hours later the tents were back up and no police action has happened since.

“I think what happened Wednesday morning was basically what we would have expected,” Rothman said. “The police arrived. They were authorized by the chancellor. I supported her in that decision. The protesters were given warning that they needed to leave, and a number of them did. When they didn’t leave, the police moved in methodically, with very little force at the end of the day, to remove the encampments. But to the extent that there was clashes, it was instigated by the protesters.”

“I think there are limited enforcement abilities to stop that from happening,” Rothman added when asked why the tents were allowed to return. “You can’t have that kind of presence. It requires mutual aid. The State Patrol was there, Madison Police was there, the University Police was there as well and Dane County was there. You can’t maintain that forever. But those encampments are illegal.”

The pro-Palestinian protesters have a list of six demands that include cutting all ties with Israeli institutions, calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire and getting “cops off campus.”

“That’s just ludicrous,” Rothman said. “The university police do a terrific job in ensuring the safety of our students that are absolutely essential. I mean, so I think that one is absolutely a nonstarter. I think the issue about the divestment issue, generally, is a red herring. I mean, the issues that they are protesting are ones of foreign policy, not of university investment. So, I just view that as a red herring. But we’ll see where the discussions lead, ultimately. But I just think both of those issues don’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Rothman didn’t rule out more police enforcement in the coming days.

“I think, you know, every option has to be on the table,” he said. “At the end of the day, the encampments are there illegally, and they need to come down.”

The program also featured RNC Chair Michael Whatley, who is backing the recent hire of Christina Bobb, an attorney overseeing election integrity efforts for the RNC. Bobb was indicted in Arizona along with that state’s “fake electors” accused of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

“What I will say is we will let the legal defense team worry about the legal defenses,” Whatley told “UpFront.” “What I will say is that this is yet another instance where we have seen the weaponization of the justice system to go after President Trump and his allies.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos recently told “UpFront” Bobb was “part of the fringe element that I don’t think helps build credibility.”

“We are trying to build a team right now that is focused on winning this election cycle,” Whatley said in response to Vos. “We have all voices. We want to make sure that we are connecting with all Republicans across the country. And look, the Wisconsin leadership there is an absolutely fundamental part of the team that we have, and we are not going to win Wisconsin without them.”

Whatley, who replaced former chairwoman Ronna McDaniel roughly two months ago, said the RNC will continue its push to encourage Republicans to vote early despite former President Donald Trump sending mixed signals on early voting.

“Look, over 50% of all voters are going to be voting before Election Day this cycle,” Whatley said. “We need to be talking to the voters before they go vote … But the key for us is if you want to vote by mail, great. If you want to vote early, great. If you want to vote on Election Day, great. Make a plan and stick to the plan and make sure you get that ballot in.”

Whatley said the RNC is doubling down efforts to recruit volunteers to monitor polling locations in key swing states like Wisconsin.

“What we want to do is make sure that we are in the room anytime a vote is being cast and any time a vote is being counted,” Whatley said. “So we definitely are recruiting folks right now to serve as poll observers, and we are recruiting both regular volunteers and attorneys to be able to serve in those roles for us. We have training sessions that we’re setting up all across Wisconsin and every other state across the country.”

Whatley visited Milwaukee ahead of the convention this July.

“Really, the logistical challenges on this are absolutely huge,” he said. “When you think about bringing 50,000 delegates and guests and press to Milwaukee, just the sheer movement of people is a very big thing. We’ve got a team on the ground that’s been up there for over a year. They’ve been doing an absolutely fantastic job. You know, we’re working with security forces, working with the Secret Service, working with local police departments to make sure that everybody’s going to be safe.”

See more from the show.

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