Ray Rodrigues, the chancellor of the State University System of Florida, issued a memo Friday to university presidents warning that pro-Palestinian protesters, who allegedly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” may have violated Florida law, according to an email obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Florida State University (FSU) hosted a protest on Oct. 11 advocating for “Palestinian resistance” just days after Hamas, a U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist organization, attacked Israel, killing over 1,300 and wounding thousands, according to Florida’s Voice. Rodrigues said in his memo that allegations had been made that protesters called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” and warned university presidents, if true, the behavior would “not be tolerated.” (RELATED: Jewish Schools Close, Beef Up Security After Hamas Calls For Day Of ‘Jihad’)
“We are deeply troubled that allegations have been made of anti-Semitic activities at these demonstrations,” Rodrigues said. “Let me be clear, if any of these allegations are true, this is criminal activity. It is a violation of the Florida statutes prohibiting anti-Semitic activities. These crimes will not be tolerated. As we have previously discussed, you have been requested to ascertain the facts of what occurred on campus during these demonstrations.”
FSU SDS posted footage of one of the protests, claiming that Israel “exists on stolen land and borrowed time,” according to an Instagram post. Students chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and “Occupation no more.”
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Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law in 2019 that required educational institutions to treat antisemitic discrimination the same as racial discrimination. Rodrigues said that the legislation “placed the full weight of state law enforcement resources at our disposal” and said that this type of “grotesque” behavior would not go unpunished, according to the memo.
Republican Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida also condemned the protests, where participants shouted “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win,” according to Florida’s Voice. Donalds, who is an alumnus of FSU, demanded that the university “denounce” the “pro-terrorist” rhetoric.
On Oct. 9, multiple state departments, under the direction of DeSantis, sent a memo to Florida universities and law enforcement condemning the “deplorable acts of terror” by Hamas and reminding that it is illegal to “provide ‘material support or resources’ to a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, including Hamas,” according to the Tallahassee Democrat. The law was updated in April and forbids intimidating or threatening someone based on their religious or ethnic heritage and littering on private property with materials designed to threaten or intimidate.
Joe Cohn, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s legislative and policy director, said that he felt the law violated the protections under the First Amendment and criticized state Rep. Randy Fine’s calls to expel students for supporting Hamas’ attacks, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
“The First Amendment is the supreme law of the land, and must take precedence over any statute that contradicts it,” Cohn said. “Here, Rep. Fine is expressly asserting that certain viewpoints, necessarily and de facto, are discriminatory, and that’s just not how American case law has unfolded.”
The chancellor’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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