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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

Police arrest 9 pro-Palestine protestors on UF campus

Arrests follow five-day occupation of UF plaza by pro-Palestinian groups

<p>A attendee at the &quot;Stand with Palestine&quot; protest holds a &quot;Not war, it&#x27;s colonialism; not eviction, it&#x27;s ethnic cleansing; not conflict, it&#x27;s occupation; not complicated, it&#x27;s genocide&quot; sign at the corner of University Avenue on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023. </p>

A attendee at the "Stand with Palestine" protest holds a "Not war, it's colonialism; not eviction, it's ethnic cleansing; not conflict, it's occupation; not complicated, it's genocide" sign at the corner of University Avenue on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023.

The UF Police Department and Florida Highway Patrol arrested nine protestors on UF’s campus Monday evening following a five-day occupation in the campus’s Plaza of the Americas by pro-Palestinian groups.

The UF Divest Coalition has maintained a presence in Plaza since noon Wednesday. UF spokesperson Steve Orlando wrote in a statement that those arrested refused to comply with rules after being given multiple days, warnings and opportunities to do so by UF police.

“This is not complicated: The University of Florida is not a daycare,” he said. “We do not treat protestors like children — they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences.”

Charges ranged from failure to obey a lawful command and resisting without violence to trespass after warning, UF spokesperson Cynthia Roldan told The Alligator Monday night. One person was also charged with battery on a law enforcement officer for spitting on an officer, Roldan said.

The university has not yet clarified whether any of the people arrested were UF students, although Orlando’s statement mentioned many of the protestors over the last several days have been “outside agitators.”

The Divest Coalition, which was formed this month by student-led and community pro-Palestinian organizations, organized the occupation to show solidarity for Gaza and demand UF make its financial partnerships transparent. 

Specifically, the Divest Coalition criticized the university’s partnerships with defense companies RTX, Kratos Defense and L3Harris, which it called “implicated in human rights violations, including the Gaza genocide” in an April 24 news release.

Since its initial Rally for Gaza on Wednesday, which drew a crowd of about 150 people, the coalition has maintained a 24/7 presence at Plaza. Though barred from setting up tents or sleeping on campus, protestors held their positions throughout the night by showing up in shifts before going home to rest.

The group occasionally called for people to join them at specific times for a rally, prayer or activity. For example, it scheduled a film screening of “Gaza is our Home'” at 6 p.m. Saturday. But protestors have spent much of the occupation sitting in Plaza, talking and doing homework on blankets in a small, rotating group of about 30 people.

The university communicated to students they could exercise their free speech rights but camping, putting up structures, disrupting academic activity or threatening others on UF property was strictly prohibited, said spokesperson Roldan in a statement to The Alligator Wednesday afternoon.

Breaking the law would result in an immediate trespassing order from UF police and an interim-suspension from Student Life, Roldan added.

Tensions rose on Thursday evening, one day after the occupation began, when police circled the protestors and distributed flyers with a list of allowable and prohibited protest activities. The three listed allowable activities were speech, expressing viewpoints and “holding signs in hands.” Among the 13 prohibited activities were sleeping, amplified sound, unattended signs and violence.

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Protestors continued occupying Plaza, and a UF student and representative from the Divest Coalition told The Alligator on Friday afternoon they would not be intimidated.

“I think they are threatened by our presence here,” said the representative, who asked to remain anonymous. “And we will not be intimidated… we will be here as long as we can be.”

The police reports for the Monday evening arrests have not yet been released. An Instagram story posted by UF Divest Coalition shortly before the arrests claimed police were trying to arrest a protestor for using a chair.

The last Instagram story posted by the group read, “Cops moving in at Plaza, we need numbers!!!”

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.

Contact Zoey Thomas at zthomas@alligator.org. Follow her on X @zoeythomas39.

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Zoey Thomas

Zoey Thomas is a second-year media production major and the university administration reporter for The Alligator. She previously wrote for the metro desk. Other than reporter, Zoey's titles include espresso connoisseur, long-distance runner and Wes Anderson appreciator. 


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