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All 9 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested at UF released from jail; one faces felony charge

A police officer and Florida Highway Patrol trooper walking behind a handcuffed person wearing a red keffiyeh.
Vivienne Serret
/
Fresh Take Florida
An unidentified University of Florida police officer and Florida Highway Patrol trooper walk a handcuffed protester away from the site on the university's campus where law enforcement arrested nine pro-Palestinian protesters late Monday, April 29, 2024. They were among the first such arrests on campuses in Florida.

Allan Hektor Frasheri, 20, a philosophy major from Dunedin, posted bail and is facing a felony battery charge related to his arrest.

An Alachua County judge released all nine pro-Palestinian protesters from jail on Tuesday after their arrest on the University of Florida campus on Monday. The final protester to be released, UF student Allan Hektor Frasheri, posted bail and is facing a felony battery charge related to his arrest.

Frasheri, 20, a philosophy major from Dunedin, Florida, was accused of spitting on a campus police officer during the arrests Monday night. He was being held in lieu of a $5,000 bond. Police and state troopers arrested the nine in a planned move coordinated with the university administration.

The university had previously threatened to banish anyone who was arrested from campus for three years and suspend any students. Employees or professors who were arrested would be fired, the school said. The university has already issued trespass orders against all nine arrested protesters, prohibiting them from entering campus until April 2027.

They were among the first college arrests in Florida involving national protests on campuses against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza where Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing more than 1,000, last October. Three protesters were arrested earlier Monday at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The violence and vandalism at some campus protests nationally have so far not materialized in Florida.

“You have a right to support or not support Israel, that’s the First Amendment,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday at a press conference. “You don’t have a right to pitch a tent in the middle of campus and commandeer some of the property.” He added, “We’re not going to be sitting there, indulging this.”

During the court hearing, Alachua County Judge Susan Miller-Jones ordered the eight protesters be released on misdemeanor charges of trespassing, failing to obey police, resisting arrest or wearing a mask in public.

At least seven of the nine protesters were current or recent UF students, including Frasheri, although the university said many of the protesters on campus were “outside agitators,” according to a school press release on Monday. The judge, Miller-Jones, said none of the nine had any prior criminal history and released them on their own recognizance.

The demonstrations at UF have been organized by a loose coalition of student groups – including the campus chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America – identifying itself as the UF Divestment Coalition. One of the coalition’s demands is that UF, with a $2.4 billion endowment, divest securities from companies providing military or technology support to Israel.

“The Plaza of the Americas is a free speech zone and protesters were exercising their First Amendment rights," Adam Dowley, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement.

Family, friends and professors attended Tuesday’s court hearing to speak on behalf of the defendants.

The most serious charge was against Frasheri, whose mother told the judge that he was a child “every mother wishes for” and said he wasn’t a dangerous person. Frasheri’s partner said he was a person others sought for support.

Court records, made public Tuesday afternoon, said Frasheri spit on the right arm of university police Officer Kristy Sasser as she was helping a state trooper walk away with another protester under arrest. She said Frasheri “walked up to us and spit on me. His spittle landed on my right arm. I disengaged from the escort and arrested Frasheri for battery.”

A photograph of Frasheri after police arrested him shows him handcuffed and wearing a medical mask over his mouth, walking near Sasser.

Police walking behind a handcuffed person wearing a face mask.
Court records, made public Tuesday afternoon, said Frasheri spit on the right arm of university police Officer Kristy Sasser as she was helping a state trooper walk away with another protester under arrest. She said Frasheri “walked up to us and spit on me. His spittle landed on my right arm. I disengaged from the escort and arrested Frasheri for battery.” A photograph of Frasheri after police arrested him shows him handcuffed and wearing a medical mask over his mouth, walking near Sasser. (Vivienne Serret/WUFT News)

Organizers said they were raising money for Frasheri’s bond and expected him to be released from jail later Tuesday.

The public defender unsuccessfully argued in court that some of the charges represented double jeopardy since they involved the same offense, declining to leave the public university’s Plaza of the Americas when ordered by police.

The judge said such legal issues can be considered by a jury. “That’s not where we’re at today,” she said.

Even a day later, it wasn’t immediately clear why police at UF decided to arrest the protesters after five days of periodic demonstrations. Police on Thursday night handed out paperwork that promised to allow activities that included “speech,” “expressing viewpoints” and “holding signs in hands.” The written rules prohibited unspecified disruptions, sleeping, tents, sleeping bags, pillows or permanent structures.

The university’s rules previously had outlawed blocking anyone’s path, blocking entrances or exits to buildings, interfering with classes inside or outside classrooms, harassing passersby or damaging property.

Last week was the last day of regularly scheduled classes for the semester. Some students are finishing final exams this week.

<i>Unidentified troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol arrest one of nine pro-Palestinian protesters on the campus of the University of Florida late Monday, April 29, 2024. (Vivienne Serret/Fresh Take Florida)</i><br/>
Unidentified troopers from the Florida Highway Patrol arrest one of nine pro-Palestinian protesters on the campus of the University of Florida late Monday, April 29, 2024. (Vivienne Serret/Fresh Take Florida)

Minutes after police and troopers started arresting the protesters, the university emailed a statement to reporters attributed to spokesman Steve Orlando that said, “The University of Florida is not a daycare, and we do not treat protesters like children – they knew the rules, they broke the rules, and they’ll face the consequences.” Orlando declined to answer questions.

The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU, on Tuesday noted the arrests on campus and, in a post on social media, said, “As students demonstrate on campuses across Florida, we remind school administrators that freedom of expression is a cornerstone of education in a democratic society.” The group last year sued UF and others over unsuccessful efforts by the DeSantis administration to ban a pro-Palestinian student from campus.

The others arrested at UF were Tess Jaden Segal, 20, a sustainability major from Weston, Florida; Augustino Matthias Pulliam, 20, a former theater major from Jacksonville, Florida; Charly Keanu Pringle, 21, of Jacksonville; Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, a computer science major from Naples, Florida; Keely Nicole Gliwa, 23, a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Gainesville, Florida; Roseanna Yashoda Bisram, 20, an engineering studies major from Ocala, Florida; Jinx Rooney, 23, of Valrico, Florida; and Ember Boerboom, 24, a former philosophy major from Chesapeake, Virginia.

In court papers, Rooney was identified as Allison Marie Rooney, and Boerboom was identified as Mary Caitlin Boerboom.

___

This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at vivienneserret@ufl.edu.

Copyright 2024 WUFT 89.1

Updated: April 30, 2024 at 5:08 PM EDT
This story was updated after all nine protestors were released from jail.