‘They turn the sprinklers on. So that’s just how it’s gonna be’ • Florida Phoenix

‘They turn the sprinklers on. So that’s just how it’s gonna be’ • Florida Phoenix
‘They turn the sprinklers on. So that’s just how it’s gonna be’ • Florida Phoenix

UPDATE: Pro- protesters were arrested at Florida State University’s campus on Tuesday afternoon, as first reported by the Tallahassee Democrat. Social media footage posted by Tally for a Democratic Society, which organized the demonstrations, shows police handcuffing protesters after they set up tents on the Tallahassee campus.

“Anyone who was arrested today made a conscious choice to engage in unlawful conduct,” FSU spokesperson Anna Prentiss wrote in an email. “The university’s rules and regulations had been explained repeatedly over several days and the group had been compliant until this afternoon. Today’s arrests occurred after the individuals ignored multiple requests and warnings to comply with a lawful order.”

At least three people arrested have been charged with trespass on property after warning, according to Leon County court records.


Police have arrested pro-Palestinian protesters on Florida campuses and sprinklers have turned on, soaking protesters standing in solidarity. To Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida universities’ handling of the demonstrations against Israel’s attack on Gaza is the “right way to go.”

“You have a right to support or not support Israel, that’s the First Amendment. You don’t have a right to pitch a tent in the middle of campus and commandeer some of the property,” DeSantis said during a press conference Tuesday morning in Naples. “Look, there haven’t been that many in Florida. It’s much smaller compared to these others, but when you go and you’re bringing a tent or something on like a campus lawn, you know what they did at Florida State and University of Florida, they turn the sprinklers on. So that’s just how it’s gonna be, but it’s about conduct and it’s about making sure you’re doing the code of conduct.”

He continued: “The University of Florida put out a statement yesterday saying, you know, people can have the views that they want, but the University of Florida is not a daycare center. “We’re not going to be sitting there and indulging this, and I think that’s the right way to go.”

The initial press conference in Naples was about the governor announcing cancellation of fees to Florida State Parks during weekend.

But DeSantis’ comments on campus unrest Tuesday came the morning after reports that police arrested protesters at the University of Florida in Gainesville and the University of South Florida in Tampa. Since last week, DeSantis has bashed the Gaza solidarity encampments at Columbia University and Yale, but he has turned his attention to the protests on Florida campuses during his Naples press conference.

Police and state troopers arrested nine protesters at UF, the state’s flagship university, Monday night, and three others were arrested at USF the same day, according to Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. One person arrested at UF was charged with a criminal battery charge after being accused of spitting in the face of a police officer, while others face misdemeanor charges of trespassing, failing to obey police, resisting arrest or wearing a mask on public property.

UF’s student newspaper, The Alligator, reported that the protesters’ occupation of a plaza on campus since Wednesday consisted of rallies, prayer and students doing homework.

At USF, police arrested three people on Monday after protesters erected tents on campus, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The charges on those arrests ranged from battery on law enforcement to trespassing and resisting an officer without violence.

Florida’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, denounced the arrests.

“Arresting a particular group of students for their stance in a peaceful protest is blatant authoritarian censorship and targeting. USF officials have failed in their duty to protect our children and uphold freedom of expression and the First Amendment,” wrote Imam Abdullah Jaber, the executive director of CAIR-Florida, in a statement. “The foundation of academia is debate and dialogue, even over unpopular opinions. Every progress in our nation is a result of protest and debate, which are essential elements of our democracy. Punishing our children mirrors our nation’s past serious mistakes – it has never and will never lead to a solution.”

DeSantis’ reference to the sprinklers at FSU took place on April 25. A group of about 40 protesters took to the Landis Green area of ​​the campus located in Tallahassee to demand that the university divest from companies with ties to Israel. The students did not have any pitched tents when the sprinklers set off. However, it’s not entirely clear about UF’s sprinkler situation, based on media reports.

Jayci Qassis, a Palestinian American student at FSU who participated in the protest, said: “It’s suppression, but it’s so cowardly that they can’t even just directly say that that’s what it is,” of the sprinklers turning on.

A university spokesperson said the sprinklers had to be turned on at that time because the area was reserved for other events later that day.

Later in the afternoon, DeSantis discussed the campus unrest at a news conference in Tampa.

“I think they are walking the right line. You have a right to say what you want. You have a right to express your opinions. You don’t have a right to commandeer a lawn on a university campus. You don’t have a right to harass other people. You don’t have a right to physically impede – you know Columbia, some of these students are taking people captive now. They’re overrunning the school. That is the inmates running the asylum, that doesn’t work. And so in Florida you can say things. You can have positions – that’s fine. But we’re not going to allow you to set up a tent city in the middle of the university. That is not going to happen here,” said DeSantis, who got a big cheer in the audience.

He continued: “These universities – which you’re seeing at Columbia and some of these places, that is toxic. That is an environment that if you’re a Jewish student, you are not safe in that environment. They are blocking Jewish students from being able to go to class. They are harassing Jewish professors. They are doing things that are far beyond them just expressing their opinions and I think that as much as I disagree with their opinions, they have a right to do that. But you don’t have a right to commandeer the university. You don’t have a right to disrupt or harass or intimidate or do all those other things.

“And I think that people are looking at Florida’s universities and saying, ‘Why can’t this happen at other places?’ and you know why it doesn’t happen there. Because there’s never any consequences for any of the malcontents. They can do whatever they want, and basically they get a slap on the wrist. Well of course you’re not going to see a change in behavior. Florida if you are violating appropriate conduct, especially if you’re warned. “You can be expelled.”

This story has been updated.

Florida Phoenix reporter Mitch Perry contributed to this report.

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