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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

‘We will not let the inmates run the asylum’: DeSantis condemns pro-Palestinian protestors at UF

DeSantis was greeted with boos and chants from about 50 protestors

Governor Ron DeSantis addresses campus protests at the Plaza of the Americas on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 amid chants for UF to divest funds to weapons manufacturers involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Governor Ron DeSantis addresses campus protests at the Plaza of the Americas on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 amid chants for UF to divest funds to weapons manufacturers involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at UF Wednesday morning about ongoing campus protests in solidarity with Gaza across the state and country. Surrounded by metal barriers and guarded by dozens of Florida Highway Patrol officers, DeSantis was greeted by a crowd of about 50 pro-Palestinian protestors who booed him and held chants throughout his speech.

Speaking at the Plaza of the Americas, DeSantis condemned protestors and “elite universities that have allowed themselves to be overrun with encampments” while praising law enforcement for allowing the encampment at UF to last “about a few minutes.”

“We will not let the inmates run the asylum in the Sunshine State,” DeSantis said. 

The UF Divest Coalition, an assembly of student-led and community pro-Palestinian organizations, have occupied the plaza since April 24 to protest Israel’s siege of Gaza and demand the university make its financial partnerships with Israeli-affiliated defense companies transparent. A spokesperson for the coalition said the encampment is still active, contrary to DeSantis’s claims. 

DeSantis derided the protestors as "imbeciles" supporting what he deemed a "cheap cause." He further contended that advocating for a Palestinian state amounted to endorsing a "second Holocaust."

He also touted his efforts to accommodate and protect Jewish students across Florida, including an executive order he signed in January to expedite the transfer process for Jewish university students and allocating $20 million in state funding to Jewish day schools.

Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System, joined DeSantis in his condemnation of the protestors and said the state would not give in to the protestors’ demands. 

“In Florida, there will be no negotiations,” Rodrigues said. “There will be no appeasement, there will be no amnesty and there will be no divestment.” 

UF President Ben Sasse expressed his support for free speech on UF’s campus and reminded protestors that they must obey campus guidelines for protests. He has said in an op-ed and in a CNN interview he will defend free speech on campus, but has criticized the “asinine entitlement” of the protestors and described them as “young men and women with little grasp of geography or history.”

“Too much of higher education has been captured by a lot of nonsense over the course of the last few weeks,” Sasse said. “That won’t happen at the University of Florida.”

Nine protestors at the UF encampment were arrested by UF Police Department and Florida High Patrol April 29 and were released the following day. 

DeSantis directly instructed the Florida Highway Patrol to address campus protests, said Dave Kerner, the director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. In certain cases, this action was taken in response to requests from university authorities, while in other instances, FHP was deployed preemptively.

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Contact Garrett Shanley at gshanley@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @garrettshanley.

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Garrett Shanley

Garrett Shanley is a third-year journalism and history major and The Alligator's Fall 2023 university administration reporter. In his free time, Garrett can be found watching Wong Kar-Wai movies and brooding.


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