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Thursday, June 13, 2024

All pro-Palestinian protestors released from jail one day after UF campus arrests

Judge released 8 of the 9 arrested without bail; one UF student released on $5,000 bail

Of the nine people arrested at a UF pro-Palestinian protest Monday evening, eight were released from Alachua County Jail early Tuesday without having to pay bail. 

A public database created by The Alligator provides information about each individual’s charges with links to their arrest reports.

The only protester to receive a felony charge, 20-year-old UF student Allan Frasheri, was charged with battery on specified personnel for spitting at a UF police officer. He posted a $5,000 bail and was released Tuesday afternoon.

Frasheri’s arrest form, filed by UF police officer Kristy Sasser, claims Frasheri walked up to Sasser and spit on her while she was assisting Florida Highway Patrol escort an arrestee away from Plaza.

“His spittle landed on my right arm,” Sasser wrote.

Frasheri was charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by a minimum imprisonment term of six months under Florida statute. Pro-Palestinian student groups used social media to ask for donations in bail money and are now asking for support for legal fees.

Alachua County Judge Susan Miller-Jones ordered the eight other protestors’ releases Tuesday morning. Protestors gathered outside the courtroom to support those arrested and call on judges to drop charges.

All but one were issued “do not return” orders, but only four of the records listed UF as the place they couldn't return to — on the other forms, the location was whited out.

UF police and the Florida Highway Patrol made the arrests at Plaza of the Americas following a five-day 24/7 occupation of the plaza by pro-Palestinian groups. On the same evening, police arrested three pro-Palestinian protestors at the University of South Florida in the first wave of protest arrests in the state.

The occupation was led by the recently formed UF Divest Coalition, an assembly of student and community pro-Palestinian organizations. The coalition organized the occupation to demand financial transparency from the university about its partnerships with defense companies linked to the Israel-Hamas war, including RTX, Kratos Defense and L3Harris.

The university announced Wednesday protestors could not camp or set up structures and threatened anyone who did so with an immediate trespassing order and suspension from student life. Police circulated the flyers listing prohibited activities Thursday evening — including sleeping and leaving signs unattended.

On Monday evening shortly after 7:30 p.m., police and troopers made arrests at Plaza in response to an active protest disturbance, according to arrest reports. However, although every filed report mentions responding to an “active protest disturbance,” none specify what made the protests a disturbance.

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The UF Divest Coalition shared police began arresting three protesters after accusing them of sitting in chairs. As police began arresting these protestors, six more were arrested in the “ensuing chaos” while the crowds chanted “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest,” according to the coalition.

Adam Dowley, a spokesperson for the coalition, denied the police’s claim that use of chairs constitutes a “structure” and requires a permit in the press release.

“All over campus you can see people sitting in chairs, or lying on blankets,” he said. “To target us over such basic activities is a blatant double standard. Are police going to target tailgaters next?"

None of the arrest reports mentioned chairs — nor did they mention the protestors exhibiting any other prohibited activities, whether sleeping, setting up tents or blocking sidewalks. Instead, most of the charges come from the protestors’ responses to being told by police to disband.

Six of the protestors — Augustino Pulliam, Mary Boerboom, Allison Rooney, Tess Segal, Roseanna Bisram and Keely Gliwa — were charged with failure to obey police or fire department, according to Alachua County court records. A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment up to 60 days and a fine up to $500 under Florida statute. 

Five of those charged with failure to obey police — all except Segal — were also charged with resisting an officer obstruction without violence. This charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, meaning it’s punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Also out of the six protestors charged for failure to obey police, all except Pulliam were additionally charged with wearing a hood or mask on public property — another second-degree misdemeanor. Florida statute bans wearing any mask, hood or other device on public property that conceals the wearer’s identity.

Parker Hovis and Charly Pringle were the only two charged with trespassing and failing to leave property on order by owner, a first-degree misdemeanor.

The UF Divest Coalition claimed police have been determined to skew the meaning of campus ordinances in an effort to frustrate protestors since they began their peaceful occupation six days ago.

The coalition’s occupation of Plaza began at noon Wednesday with a Rally for Gaza that drew a crowd of about 150 people. Protestors led chants, danced and played music for about three hours, despite pushback from a small group of pro-Israel counter-protestors who filmed the pro-Palestinian protestors and laughed as they chanted.

Following its loud beginnings Wednesday, the occupation calmed into a rotating group of about 30 students who sat on blankets in Plaza to talk, eat and do homework. Occasionally, the protestors invited people to join them for crafts, educational sessions or film screenings, which they advertised on social media.

A letter from a non-profit law firm Florida Legal Services, sent to the UF vice president for student life, police department and general counsel’s office April 29, expressed concern the list of restrictions given to students was unconstitutionally vague. The university did not give people fair notice to understand the regulations restricting their First Amendment activities, said the letter, which was signed by attorney Andrea Costello.

UF was also inconsistent in enforcing its these restrictions — first telling students they could use blankets or tarps, then saying blankets were permissible but tarps were not; first telling students the could keep signs in the ground next to them, then saying they had to remove signs they weren’t holding, Costello said. 

“It is difficult for protestors to understand or comply with rules that the police themselves cannot explain,” she said.

Protestors were also told if they needed a chair to sit because of a disability, they could not use it, Costello added. She asked the university to respond in writing immediately to clarify the issues with its prohibited activities list, lest Florida Legal Services seek intervention.

UF Faculty for Justice in Palestine also released a statement April 30 decrying the arrests. Members of UF FJP have stood with students occupying the Plaza and noticed UF administration’s attempts to chill their freedom of speech over the past several days, the statement said.

“While students hold space on the Plaza of the Americas, they are balancing studying for their final exams, coordinating food and water deliveries, facilitating prayers, caring for each others’ wellbeing, and speaking their beliefs on their institution’s complicity in the genocide in Palestine,” the statement said.

The university’s exam days began April 27 and will end May 3, after which commencement and graduation ceremonies will begin. UF has not said graduation ceremonies will be affected by the protests or arrests.

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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