© 2024 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You Count on Us, We Count on You: Donate to WUSF to support free, accessible journalism for yourself and the community.

DeSantis lauds law enforcement and universities at a UF press conference as protesters demonstrate

A protestor waves a Palestinian flag, in the Plaza of The Americas at the University of Florida, in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis during his press conference at UF in Gainesville, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)
A protestor waves a Palestinian flag, in the Plaza of The Americas at the University of Florida, in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis during his press conference at UF in Gainesville, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)

At a press conference at UF, DeSantis praised university leadership and law enforcement throughout the state for not negotiating with pro-Palestinian protesters.

Dozens of Florida Highway Patrol officers flanked metal gates separating pro-Palestinian protesters from a press conference at the University of Florida where Gov. Ron DeSantis condemned their actions on Wednesday.

The crowd of about 40 protesters wore keffiyehs and waved signs and Palestinian flags throughout the conference, crying “Free, free Palestine” and “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

DeSantis praised university leadership and law enforcement throughout the state for not negotiating with “agitators.”

“We've seen a lot of failures of leadership. We've seen some of these schools get overrun,” DeSantis said. “That is not happening here in the state of Florida. You are going to behave appropriately, or if not, you're going to be shown the door.”

Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the University of Florida on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. During the conference, he condemned pro-Palestinian protesters on Florida campuses and praised law enforcement and university officials. (Courtesy of Ron DeSantis)
Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the University of Florida on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. During the conference, he condemned pro-Palestinian protesters on Florida campuses and praised law enforcement and university officials. (Courtesy of Ron DeSantis)

Chancellor of the state university system Ray Rodriguez also spoke, criticizing the “chaos” on college campuses across the country and celebrating recent commencement ceremonies.

“Florida is a law and order state,” he said. “In Florida, there will be no negotiations, there will be no appeasement, there will be no amnesty and there will be no divestment.”

Desantis later said that the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” implies that pro-Palestinian protesters “want a second Holocaust.”

In the crowd, adorned with a beaded bracelet of the Palestinian flag and a dark green keffiyeh, a scarf that symbolizes the pro-Palestinian movement, Laila Fakhoury said she “completely rejects” that idea.

Laila Fakhoury leads a chant in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)
Laila Fakhoury leads a chant in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)

Fakhoury is the press liaison for the protesters, and a community organizer and UF alumna. She said it’s been demoralizing to hear politicians’ statements about the movement.

“All of their talking points are the same. It's been like that for years and years and years. This is not a new issue. This has been going on for the past 75 years,” she said. “It's just, enough is enough.”

Laila Fakhoury, center, yells while protesting Gov. Ron DeSantis during his press conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)
Laila Fakhoury, center, yells while protesting Gov. Ron DeSantis during his press conference at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)

She added that UF’s policies on protests have changed recently, making it hard for them to follow the rules, but they have always intended to peacefully protest. She said she was disappointed by DeSantis’ statements, but not surprised.

“It's frustrating and it's upsetting that he still hasn't found his humanity and that he's supposed to be a leader of this state and one of the leaders in this country,” she said. “But it's not shocking that he took the wrong side in history.”

UF President Ben Sasse said during the press conference that rule breaking will not be tolerated.

“You have a constitutional right to protest and we will protect that. But anyone who crosses the line with prohibited actions will face the consequences,” he said.

A protestor holds a prop representing a dead child in Palestine in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)
A protestor holds a prop representing a dead child in Palestine in protest of Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. (Lee Ann Anderson/WUFT News)

DeSantis also pledged an additional $20 million of the state budget to support security at Jewish day schools, as well as $570 million for general K-12 student safety.

He ended the conference by saying “we will not let the inmates run the asylum in the Sunshine State.”

Fakhoury said this line shows what DeSantis really thinks about universities.

“They teach us to come to university so that we can open our minds, so that we can speak up, so that we can make a difference, but then they try to silence us with everything that we do when we're actually standing for humanity,” she said.

Last month, nine people were arrested during protests on the university’s campus, six of them students. They were ordered by a judge not to return to campus or to have any contact with the university.

Copyright 2024 WUFT 89.1