Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Florida (UF) filed a lawsuit Thursday against the university system and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, alleging that the state was violating their First Amendment rights.
In October, the DeSantis administration directed UF’s administration to shut down its SJP chapters for supporting “terrorism” after the National SJP chapter referred to the terror attacks on Oct. 7 as “resistance” and encouraged students to protest in support of Palestinian liberation, according to the letter. In response, the chapter filed a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), claiming that the state was punishing them for statements solely made by the national organization, according to the lawsuit.
DeSantis’ letter argued that the national organization’s toolkit for a “National Day of Resistance” violated the state’s law against material support for terrorism by referring to Hamas’ Operation Al-Aqsa Flood as “the resistance” and ordered that the chapters on the UF system’s campuses must be shut down. The lawsuit, however, claims that the state can’t suspend UF’s chapter simply due to its “affiliation with NSJP—which is constitutionally protected.”
“Moreover, independent political advocacy—no matter its viewpoint—is fully protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit reads. “Florida’s material support statute recognizes as much by explicitly excluding independent advocacy from its ambit.”
Our statement on the increased state and institutional repression towards SJPs and Palestinian students across the so-called US. We will not be silenced! pic.twitter.com/LMsfe4XcTF
— National Students for Justice in Palestine (@NationalSJP) November 13, 2023
A spokesperson for DeSantis’ office told the DCNF that “groups that claim to be part of a foreign terrorist movement have no place on our university campuses.”
“The governor was right to disband a group that provides material support to a terrorist organization,” the spokesperson said in conclusion.
UF SJP said in a statement on Oct. 10, following the attacks on Israel that left over 1,400 dead and 240 taken hostage, that they mourned the loss of life but noted that they “stand in full support of Palestinian liberation,” according to an Instagram post.
“[T]he resistance we are seeing today is a response to decades of oppression and inhumanity,” the chapter wrote. “It is important in this situation to consider the context of what people live daily … Therefore it is crucial that every plea for peace genuinely promotes peace this time around by addressing it in the context of the Israeli occupation, domination and apartheid.”
UF SJP also organized several protests in support of a “ceasefire” and a “National Day of Resistance,” outlined in the national organization’s toolkit, according to social media posts. The chapter also called out university leadership for being focused on those “mourning the Hamas attacks” and not “extending their sympathies” to those mourning the “ethnic genocide by the IDF [Israel Defense Forces].”
The ACLU and the office of the chancellor did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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